American Airlines announced Saturday that it has suspended it’s partnership with 6 National Football League (NFL) teams due to a lack of sufficient aircraft to provide charter flights to games.
American will end contracts flying with the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins for the 2017-2018 season, lasting from August to February, depending on the teams’ respective success.
American will remain flying charter operations for the Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles, while both Delta and United cater for each of the other NFL teams.
The interesting part about this move is that two of the six airlines the airline is ending partnerships with serve cities’ that operate as American Airlines hubs. The Arizona Cardinals are based in Phoenix, Arizona, the airlines’ 5th largest hub airport by passenger numbers. The Miami Dolphins are based in Miami, Florida, where American operates a massive Latin America fortress hub, ranking as the airlines’ fourth largest hub in terms of passengers.
American spokeswoman Lakeesha Brown commented on the business move, saying “After careful evaluation, we are reducing the number of charter operations for 2017 to ensure we have the right aircraft available for our passenger operation.”
Major U.S. airlines offering charters for professional sports teams has always been a tradition, even in other sports such as Major League Baseball (MLB), National Hockey Association (NHL), Major League Soccer (MLS), and the National Basketball Association (NBA). In many cases, airlines’ have specialized aircraft with a low-density cabin configuration for the teams’ players, coaching staff, and families.
Delta Airlines operates a fleet of 11 Boeing 757 aircraft along with 8 Airbus A319 aircraft in special configurations for NBA teams, in which the airline operates for 27 out of the league’s 30 teams. Delta recently purchased an additional 11 Airbus aircraft for the specialized operations, as well.
The Boeing 757 aircraft in the fleet that operate charters are registered N649DL, N650DL, N651DL, N652DL, N654DL, N655DL, N661DN, N662DN, N663DN, N664DN, and N666DN. These aircraft operate in an all-first class 72-seat configuration, all of which are based at either Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) or John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in the offseason.