Gophers football fans hoping to hop on a charter flight to San Diego for the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl might be out of luck.
The university’s alumni association cancelled its charter flight only hours after first advertising the travel package, and a third-party charter sold out within 24 hours. A waiting list has been started by Creative Charter for a second plane, but seats won’t be officially booked until the aircraft is 90 percent full. Otherwise, fans will have to fly commercially.
The alumni association said it cancelled its flight after receiving feedback from alums and fans about their travel plans. The charter offered a two-night trip, arriving Dec. 26 and departing Dec. 28, with hotel and transportation accommodations for $1,829. Fans expressed a desire for more flexibility for travel dates because of the destination and timing around the holidays, leading the alumni association to drop its charter package and instead offer their travel services to help fans find a commercial flight.
“We are seeing interest. It’s just a matter of how they want to get there,” said Lisa Lewis, the alumni association president and CEO. “We did end up making a quick decision to move some people from a potential charter flight to commercial flights because we wanted to make sure they got the best price and were able to get there.
“[Fans] are getting an equivalent experience, but rather on charter planes, they’ll be on commercial planes. ... Our goal is to get as many fans as possible out to San Diego as possible and we’re really listening to our alumni and fans and trying to adapt quickly to accommodate that. ... San Diego is a really attractive destination and I think people will go and people will stay [to vacation]."
Lewis said 20-plus individuals booked the charter flight before it was cancelled.
Commercial round-trip flights from Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport to San Diego leaving Dec. 26 and staying two nights start at $717 on Priceline as of Tuesday. Non-stop flights through Delta start at $942 and jump to $1,003 if you stay through the weekend.
The alumni association’s “land-only” package, which was included in the charter pricing, is available for $739 and includes two nights of “deluxe” accommodations at the team hotel with round-trip game day transfers. There are also game day and tailgate packages available. Fans also have the option to extend their stay at the team hotel.
The “Travelin’ Gophers” chapter of Creative Charters in conjunction with the Goal Line Club boosters sold out one chartered plane within 24 hours after the bowl destination was announced. A waiting list for a second plane has been started and is about 50 percent full. According to seatguru.com, the Sun Country-operated planes seat 162 passengers.
The travel packages ranging from $1,099-$1,269 per person include a non-stop flight to San Diego departing the morning of Dec. 26, three nights at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel, all airport/hotel transfers, and a returning flight from Los Angeles. Two-night and four-night packages are also available.
Game tickets are available at an extra cost. Tickets start at $85 and are free for students.
“If they want to go, we’re going to make it happen,” said Steven Erban, co-owner of Creative Charters/Travelin’ Gopher. “If we get two airplanes, that’s pretty good. … Our attitude [and motto] around here is ‘We never leave a travelin’ Gopher behind.’ ”
There are several airports in the Los Angeles-area if fans want to save money and are willing to travel a few more hours after arriving in Southern California. The cheapest option Tuesday was $461 on Priceline into Los Angeles International Airport. The drive, without traffic, from Los Angeles to San Diego is about two hours. If you take the scenic route along the Pacific Coast Highway it will extend your drive time at least an hour, but the views make it worth your time. Or you can take a three-hour $46 train ride that follows a similar route.
Fox Sports writer Aaron Torres is expecting a large number of Minnesotans to make the trip. His reason to watch the Holiday Bowl is "After another winter of temperatures in the teens, Minnesota’s fan-base may set an all-time record for number of fans walking around San Diego on a brisk, 60-degree morning in flip flops and Hawaiian shirts saying to themselves ‘this is awesome.’ "