SBD/Issue 244/Franchises

Charter Flight Dispute Impacting Pro Sports Teams' Travel Plans

If Transportation Ban Remains In Place,
Upcoming NHL Season Could Be Disrupted
A dispute between the U.S. and Canada over charter flights is "causing havoc for sports teams across North America and could disrupt the coming NHL season," according to Paul Waldie of the GLOBE & MAIL. U.S. and Canada transportation officials "have banned charter airlines carrying sports teams from making multiple stops, something that had been allowed for years," and if the bans remain in place, NHL teams "will have difficulty playing back-to-back games in the United States or Canada and could be forced to return to their home country between each game." Miami Air Int'l, which provides charter services for the Blue Jays and five U.S.-based NHL teams including the Penguins, last week was told to "cancel nearly 60 flights to Canada in September for NHL preseason games," and the company "must also drop four Jays trips." Miami Air President Ross Fischer said that teams "will have to find a second carrier, at an added cost, or fly back and forth across the border." He noted that Canadian teams "will be hit hardest." Dallas-based Paradigm Air Carriers, which flies the Stars and Coyotes, "has to cancel six flights for September," and Air Canada, which serves teams including the Raptors and all six Canadian NHL clubs, "has been told to drop all team contracts." Waldie noted sports teams for years "had been given special consideration by both countries," as foreign airlines are "generally not allowed to move passengers between domestic cities in either country," a practice known as cabotage. The current dispute "began last month after the U.S. Department of Transport audited Air Canada's flight services" for the Bruins and the Bucks during the '08-09 season, and the audit "allegedly found Air Canada engaged in cabotage on several flights" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/7). NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly "warns the charter ban will create a complicated 'patchwork' of travel that could 'wreck havoc' with the oncoming hockey schedule as teams scramble to book flights under the new rules." Daly: "It's crazy and very destabilizing to our business." CANWEST NEWS SERVICE's Don Martin noted the Ducks "have pulled back from an Air Canada contract and there are concerns existing clients" like the Bruins and Bucks "will follow suit" (CANWEST NEWS, 9/4).

MOTOWN BLUES: In Toronto, Mark Zwolinski reported the dispute "already has forced a small change" for the Blue Jays' trip to Detroit on Miami Air tomorrow. Blue Jays Manager of Team Travel Mike Shaw said that Canadian officials "have nixed the team's plans to fly from Toronto to Windsor and then entering the U.S. from Windsor." The team "has since booked a flight directly into Detroit," and Shaw said that if Canadian officials "balk at that flight, the team will charter a bus to get to Detroit." Shaw added that if the dispute "carries on into next season, the Jays will likely bus to Buffalo and fly to their U.S. destinations from there" (TORONTO STAR, 9/6).

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