The Super Bowl brings an epic air show of private planes to Phoenix
PHOENIX (AP) — Former NFL player Jim Bob Morris is heading to the Phoenix Super Bowl from Bloomington, Ill., in a newly refurbished set of wheels. His ride has new paint, new seats and even a new bathroom.
Morris, who played for the Green Bay Packers, Houston Oilers and was even briefly with the Kansas City Chiefs, is CEO of several companies, including Morris Packaging and El Bandido Yankee tequila. He and seven other executives will arrive at the Scottsdale airport Tuesday on the company’s Cessna Citation Excel. The mid-size jet has chairs that recline far enough for comfortable sleeping. There are tables and internet so everyone can pull out laptops and cell phones to work. Morris plans to replace the stewardess and serve everyone.
“I know where everything is,” Morris said with a laugh. “I know where the vodka is. I know where El Bandido is. In fact, we serve other spirits than El Bandido – if anyone is brave enough to order it.
Private jet-setters are the reason every Super Bowl comes with massive air traffic. Officials expect more than 1,000 additional planes to descend on Phoenix’s eight metro airports and beyond this week for the game between the Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles as well as the Phoenix Open, which ends. the same day. Many of them will carry entertainers, sports personalities and corporate personalities who won’t have to deal with long security lines or cramped seats. Instead, they will be seated eating filet mignon and drinking. Even with the long line of plane departures expected after the game and high airport fees, some say nothing beats the convenience.
More than 4,000 additional takeoffs and landings and nearly 1,100 additional planes parked at Phoenix-area airports are expected during Super Bowl week, according to the FAA. More than 1,000 additional takeoffs and landings are expected at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport over the weekend, said airport spokeswoman Heather Shelbrack. Compare that to February 2022, when there were nearly 2,000 total flight operations for the month.
Scottsdale Airport, which is closest to the course where the Phoenix Open is played, expects strong attendance, airport spokeswoman Sarah Ferrara said. She had no estimate of the number of additional planes that would be present this week. But in 2015 — when Phoenix last hosted the Super Bowl — there were 1,189 surgeries over the weekend.
All reservations for arrival and departure times are handled by fixed operators at the airports. It is imperative that travelers do not miss the reserved timeslot as many flights are scheduled. And during busy times like right after the game, take-off fees for private planes can be exorbitant. That’s why Morris plans to depart early next week rather than being caught up in the “air show” of non-stop Sunday and Monday departures.
Morris played in the NFL in the 80s and actually started out as a free agent with the Chiefs, but was released due to injury. But he doesn’t just come to encourage them. He also attends two dozen events for El Bandido for the Super Bowl and the Phoenix Open. Company ambassadors include former Chiefs players Bill Maas and Dino Hackett. Nick Lowery, former Chiefs place kicker. is a minority owner.
Flying privately is how Morris generally does business. In the past year alone, he has logged more than 400 hours of travel time on one of his company’s three aircraft.
“People think it’s sexy and there are certain elements that can be,” Morris said. “So my deal is to compress time.”
For some travelers, luxury and perks are the call. Ion Jets, a brokerage firm that acts as an agent for members seeking private flights, received more than 175 inquiries for Super Bowl weekend. They don’t just book the flight, CEO Todd Spitzer said.
For example, a longtime customer and current NFL player will be flying on a Gulfstream Jet with seven family members. As his birthday is around this time, his favorite dishes – filet mignon and lobster tails – will be served. They even booked the family a home in the posh Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley with a private chef.
Ion does not own or operate any aircraft. They work with a network of 5,000 aircraft worldwide, Spitzer said.
“If someone owns a plane and its ability to be chartered, we keep it busy and help plane owners offset the cost of owning them,” Spitzer said. “It’s not just theft. Ground transportation, hotels, catering, we’re setting people up right now for Shaq’s Fun House…it’s a ground-to-air concierge.
Since the pandemic, Spitzer has noticed an increased interest in private aviation. Maybe it was out of fear of COVID-19 at first. But now they’re driven by other issues like the wave of cancellations that hit Southwest Airlines in December.
“We’ve seen a huge shift in why people travel privately. It used to be mostly for ease and convenience,” Spitzer said. “And it still is, but it’s actually become more of a necessity now.”
Private jets have come under greater scrutiny in recent months by climate change advocates after a high-profile unofficial study into celebrity travel. One of the reasons this is so concerning is that an airplane can produce higher amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, which linger in the air for literally hundreds of years, according to Sonja Klinsky , associate professor in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. On a private plane where there are fewer people, the emissions per person will be higher.
So a growing demand for private aviation is “exactly the wrong trend if we’re worried about climate change.”
“If we have a limited atmospheric space, for what kinds of activities are we, as a society, ready to use our limited emissions? This is a complicated and very important question,” Klinsky said.