Away game express: Airlines are creating limited-time scheduled flights for sports fans
Attention sports fans: Your flight to the next big game might become easier.
Airlines are increasingly courting sports fans with limited-time scheduled flights that provide transportation to away games.
A recent example comes from Sun Country. The Minneapolis-based carrier is adding flights for two upcoming rivalry games between the NFL's Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers this fall and winter. These flights not only provide fans a new way to travel to games, but they also allow airlines to maximize revenue and capture new customers.
Allegiant has similar one-off scheduled flights planned mainly for football games across the country this fall — and carriers have historically increased the number of flights and seats available in response to big games and events.
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Special sports flights in the past
All three legacy carriers — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines — as well as airlines such as Southwest, have offered special flights and increased capacity in response to various sporting events, especially for football.
For the NFL Super Bowl earlier this year between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, American Airlines offered a special one-time nonstop flight to transport Chiefs fans from Kansas City International Airport (MCI) to Tampa International Airport (TPA), according to Business Insider.
Additionally, Southwest Airlines offered increased frequencies between MCI and TPA around the Super Bowl last February. Responding to increased demand, the Dallas-based airline added a total of five flights to TPA in the days leading up to the big game and four flights back to MCI in the days following the game.
United has offered multiple limited-time scheduled flights for college football. In 2019, the carrier added several one-time routes tailored for college football fans, such as a round-trip flight between Baton Rouge, Louisiana (BTR), and Austin, Texas (AUS), for a game between Louisiana State University and the University of Texas.
These special flights exist outside of football, too. To accommodate more fans for the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia, Delta is known to fly Boeing 757-200s on the short hop from Atlanta (ATL) to Augusta (AGS) on dates around the event. That's a big upgrade from the usual Bombardier CRJ-900.
Why are there specially scheduled flights for sporting events?
These special types of flights have benefits for passengers and airlines alike.
A major selling point of these new types of sports flights is convenience. The flights are nonstop and timed exactly for the game, so fans don't have to do much extra planning. This is especially important when the route would otherwise possibly involve multiple connections.
For example, Allegiant is flying a limited-time route between Appleton, Wisconsin (ATW), and New Orleans (MSY) for a game between the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints. There's otherwise no nonstop service between the two cities. The Allegiant flight makes the journey considerably easier with a 2.5-hour trip, while a flight on American, Delta or United would include a connection and take more than five hours, based on a Google Flights search.
For airlines, these flights are an opportunity for extra revenue that's badly needed since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020. The demand is there with devoted fan bases across the country who would love to cheer on their team. The fact that most stadiums were empty last season due to pandemic-related restrictions makes these types of flights even more attractive.
Airlines also hope that fans buy travel bundles, including flights, hotels and rental cars, to earn even more revenue. Allegiant hinted at this when discussing one of these routes by saying that "Travelers can book their entire vacation with Allegiant," including hotel and rental car. Therefore, airline revenue for these flights doesn't end with the ticket price.
Special sports flights this fall and winter
Here are a few of Sun Country's upcoming game-themed flights:
|Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport (MSP)||Cincinnati (CVG)||Outbound is Sept. 11; return is Sept. 13||Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 12 at 1 p.m. ET|
|Green Bay, Wisconsin (GRB)||MSP||Outbound is Nov. 21; return is also Nov. 21||Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 21 at 1 p.m. CT|
|MSP||GRB||Outbound is Jan. 2; return is at 12:45 a.m. on Jan. 3||Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers on Jan. 2 at 8:20 p.m. CT|
In addition to these three examples, Sun Country has added extra flights for almost every Minnesota Vikings away game. Prices for these flights start at $59 each way.
Related: Budget carrier turf war? Sun Country appears to retaliate against Allegiant
While Sun Country is one of the latest airlines to announce limited-time scheduled sports flights, Allegiant is leading the way with the most of this type of flight for the fall.
Some of the intriguing limited-time sports flights that Allegiant will be operating this fall include:
|Provo Municipal Airport, Utah (PVU)||Las Vegas (LAS)||Outbound is Sept. 2; return is Sept. 5||College football: Brigham Young University vs. Arizona State University in Las Vegas on Sept. 4 at 10:30 p.m. MT|
|Appleton, Wisconsin (ATW)||New Orleans (MSY)||Outbound is Sept. 10; return is Sept. 13||Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints on Sept. 12 at 4:25 p.m. CT|
|Grand Forks, North Dakota (GFK)||Nashville (BNA)||Outbound is Oct. 28; return is Oct. 31||U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game: University of North Dakota vs. Penn State University in Nashville on Oct. 30 at 7:07 p.m. CT|
|Kansas City (MCI)||Las Vegas (LAS)||Outbound is Nov. 12; return is Nov. 15||Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders on Nov. 14 at 8:20 p.m. PT|
Take note that all of Allegiant's game-themed flights involve several-night stays. Also, many of these routes, such as GFK to BNA, do not normally have nonstop service on any airline.
The increase in special Allegiant sports flights comes after the late 2019 naming of the Las Vegas Raiders stadium to Allegiant Stadium. Allegiant seems to be trying to attract football fans through these flights and the stadium branding.
Also, University Park Airport (SCE) near State College, Pennsylvania, will be receiving several limited-time scheduled flights this fall to transport fans to and from various Penn State University sporting events, according to the Centre Daily Times of State College. Among them: a nonstop round-trip flight from Birmingham, Alabama, ahead of the Penn State-Auburn game.
Although the main reason for these special flights is to transport fans to games, remember that these are still scheduled flights — this means that anyone, even non-sports fans, can take them.
Also, in some cases, airlines are selling seats on the positioning flights for these sports flights. This means that you could score a cheap and likely empty flight that is on its way to pick up sports fans. For example, Allegiant is flying and selling tickets for a positioning flight from ATW to MSY on Monday, Sept. 13, to pick up fans from the football game that will take place in New Orleans on Sunday, Sept. 12. This flight will likely not be very busy — and the base fare is $49.
A look at the seat map for this flight shows that only 12 out of 177 seats have been reserved so far. While looking at the number of seat reservations is not a perfect indicator of capacity, it is a signal that there will likely not be many passengers on board.
These specially scheduled flights can be a great way for fans to conveniently travel to cheer on their team. AvGeeks and non-sports fans are in for a treat, too, with unique flights and routes available for anyone to buy.
Editor's note: This post has been updated with additional information about last year's extra flights around the Super Bowl and upcoming sports flights this fall.