For many people, March Madness means brackets, buckets and Benjamins. For my household it means four-plus weeks of intense travel as a family. Airplanes, busses, hotels, light rails and crowded arenas over and over again. In the midst of this 30-day endurance test comes one saving grace: the comfort and convenience of chartered flight.
My husband works in college athletics and, luckily enough, the team he works for charters a staff plane to transport our group cross-country for the length of our tournament run. Chartered flight has ruined me. I’ve seen the other side of flight, and the grass is indeed greener. Privacy is at premium when you travel, and chartered flight ensured our coaches, team, spirit squad and staff the luxury and convenience of being able to strategize, celebrate and collaborate in a safe, secure environment.
Arriving at the aviation hangar, we were met at our car and our bags were immediately collected and trafficked to our plane. We were then put through to a private lounge equipped with a flat-screen TV, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, coffee and water. Quite the difference from the crowded passenger terminals found at the airport. Coaches and players huddled together to discuss media commitments and game plans, band members and cheerleaders developed new chants to rouse a raucous crowd, staff members took phone calls and answered emails – all in the comfort of a Wi-Fi-ready space.
In an effort to familiarize himself with his cargo, our chartered pilot came out to greet us and formally invited everyone to board the plane and occupy the seat of their choice. We boarded a spacious 737-800. With a 190-passenger capacity, we were ensured more than adequate space for our group of 150 or so, including a couple of 7-foot players. Our Boeing aircraft featured CFM International 56-7 Series engines which provided enough thrust to get us to our various destinations well ahead of schedule.
The flight attendants were friendly, accommodating, and offered to be of help in any way they could. We were offered tea, coffee, warm blankets and cool washcloths, all with a polite smile.
As is inevitable, the stomachs of many of the students and athletes began to growl just prior to takeoff. Anticipating this, our chartered flight company had arranged for bottles of Gatorade and boxed lunches full of turkey sandwiches and more freshly baked cookies to be waiting for us as we boarded the plane.
Before pushing off, the pilot wished our team well and played the school fight song over the loudspeaker. Our head coach stood up in front of everyone and conveyed his pride in the team’s season thus far. He credited each department for their contributions to a successful season, and reassured us that we weren’t finished quite yet. As we ascended above the clouds to our cruising altitude, the entire plane felt content, zen-like, even. It was smooth sailing for this group as we made our way from tournament venue to tournament venue with a championship trophy on the horizon.