Air Transport World

Sports means big business. (air travel of professional sports teams)

An event that has become commonplace is to read about some not-yet-25-yearold athlete's demanding--and getting-- several millions of dollars for playing a sport that will require his working only about six months out of each year.

After all, major sports, both professional and college, is big business.

But the young gladiators are not the only ones who are getting the big bucks. Add the 102 professional football, basketball, baseball and hockey teams to the roughly 200 top colleges that send their athletes around the country and the market becomes a growing one for the airlines that provide the transportation.

Last year, U.S. carriers earned $340 million from passenger charters, of which an estimated $50 million, or about 15%, was from carrying athletic teams to and from their games.

Throw in the "boosters," or sports fans, who charter aircraft to follow their favorite teams to events such as college bowl games, championship playoffs or the Super Bowl, and the amount gets even higher.

The revenue that flows into any specific airline's coffers varies widely. USAir, which earned about $19.2 million in passenger charters last year based on DOT data, said sports accounted for about $3 million, or 15%. Alaska Airlines, which earned $5. …

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