News & Articles
Costly Last-Minute Deals for the Super Bowl Crowd
By JOE SHARKEY
The New York Times
HOW much? For corporations and individuals headed to New Orleans for the Super Bowl this weekend, the answer is: a lot.
Chris Gash Super Bowl weekend and related pregame activities represent the biggest single-event corporate travel and entertainment spending spree of any year.
This year, the Super Bowl will probably generate about $185 million in local spending by visitors on hotels, meals and entertainment, according to a report released on Monday by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
That’s an increase of almost 25 percent from the $150 million that the firm estimated was spent in Indianapolis during Super Bowl week last year. But it’s down from the $200 million spent in Dallas for the 2011 Super Bowl, where a new stadium and two teams with big followings, the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, helped increase spending despite a slack economy.
Adam W. Jones, the director of the sports and tourism sector at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the increase over last year was an affirmation of perceptions about a successful recovery in New Orleans.
So what are your prospects for finding a last-minute hotel room in New Orleans for the weekend? You’re pretty much out of luck — unless you have a prime contact at the National Football League or its corporate affiliates, which long ago booked more than 25,000 of the estimated 37,000 hotel rooms in the area.
On Monday, the only hotel accommodations I could find in New Orleans were at LaPlace Motel near the airport (a motel about which a review last year on Hotels.com says succinctly, “It’s cheap and we needed a dog friendly so we pick this one.”) LaPlace could still accommodate you (and your dog) on Saturday and Sunday night for $839.48. But come back a week later and the Saturday and Sunday night price is $169 — a difference that would cover a lot of dog biscuits.
Some Super Bowl packages offered by brokers include game tickets costing more than $7,000 each (one offers a luxury suite that holds about 30 people for $300,000). Another offered a room for two at a modest three-star hotel and two end-zone tickets for $14,000.
Airlines have also raised prices for the Super Bowl — at least in the markets for the two teams, the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens.
On Monday, San Francisco-to-New Orleans round-trip coach fares were listed in the $1,300 to $2,000 range on booking sites like Orbitz and Travelocity. But it always pays to check the airlines’ Web sites. On Monday morning, American Airlines still had an available flight departing San Francisco on Saturday and returning on Monday at $560 for the cheapest coach seat and $1,013 for first class. But a few hours later, American’s Web site listed no available flights.
Of course, you could always fly private. Super Bowl destinations always experience a big influx of corporate jets. And assuming you don’t already have your own corporate or private jet, or at least a fractional share in one, it also pays to shop around. This year, demand for private flights to the Super Bowl is “just not as high as we’ve seen in the past,” said Chet Dudzik Jr., the president of JetWay Private Air, a broker for charter flights on private jets of all models. Last year, with the Super Bowl played by teams from New York and Boston, a record of about 1,100 private jets descended on Indianapolis. This year, with teams from smaller markets playing, flights and parking slots for planes at area airports were still available.
How much? Well, there’s a vast range of prices for chartering a private jet, often with numerous extra fees to cover things like fuel and repositioning a plane or crew. JetWay Private Air, which Mr. Dudzik says has “no surprises” in hidden fees, was offering charter flights at these prices last week: For a light-jet round-trip flight seating six to eight passengers between San Francisco and New Orleans, $34,998. For big heavy-jet models, with cabins seating 10 to 16 people, $71,998.
Private jets also offer the convenience of using general aviation airports to avoid the hassles of commercial airports. For one thing, there are no Transportation Security Administration checkpoints. Instead, after being cleared against security watch lists, passengers simply stroll on board.
On the other hand, commercial airlines will be taking off as usual from New Orleans right after the game. But for security reasons, the Federal Aviation Administration imposes special restrictions on noncommercial flights in airspace over New Orleans in the hours before, during and immediately after the Super Bowl. Traffic jams for private planes trying to take off on Sunday night are notorious.
For clients who insist on leaving right after the game rather than staying the night, “you just have to warn people” about takeoff delays, Mr. Dudzik said. “We’ll order additional complimentary catering, a few extra bottles of wine or more food,” he said. Crews are trained to deal with impatient passengers, often wealthy individuals who “are able to control a lot of things in their lives, and who think they can control when they depart right after the game — but they just can’t.”
Oh well, as Gilda Radner usually said woefully in character as Roseanne Roseannadanna years ago on “Saturday Night Live”: “It’s always something. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”