Super Bowl jet-setters are descending on L.A. Who’s managing the private plane traffic jam?
It’s not just street traffic around SoFi Stadium and downtown Los Angeles that will be heavy on Super Bowl weekend. A flurry of private jets is expected to descend on nearby airports to ferry well-heeled football fans, celebrities and other big shots to the championship game.
Regional airports are expecting to serve about 1,500 additional private jets for the weekend, compared with a typical weekend in Southern California, totaling nearly 3,000 incoming and outgoing flights.
That’s in addition to more than several dozen extra commercial flights flying into Los Angeles International Airport, the nation’s second-busiest airport, including at least 17 new nonstop flights from Cincinnati to Los Angeles.
Demand for private flights surged to historical records during the pandemic as travelers sought to avoid the health risks of crowded commercial flights. And this year’s Super Bowl is the first since COVID-19 set in to lift all stadium seating limits and allow in-person celebrations, leading many enthusiastic fans to fly into L.A.
That could mean more incoming jets than airport lots can handle.
“There are only so many slots,” said Greg Raiff, chief executive of Private Jet Services Group, a New Hampshire company that buys, sells, services and charters private jets. “There will be a substantial number of customers who are going to be disappointed because there isn’t going to be room for them at the inn.”
The Federal Aviation Administration oversees air traffic control. Here are some of the steps the agency and local airports are taking to prevent the skies over Southern California from resembling the 405 Freeway on a Friday afternoon.
How will the FAA maintain order over incoming and outgoing flights?
The agency is implementing a reservation system that requires all private charter planes to reserve a time slot for when they can land and take off, and also reserve a parking spot for their planes with a private airport business known as a fixed-base operator, or FBO.
The reservation system extends from Feb. 6 to Feb. 14. The FBOs must input into a shared database overseen by the FAA the exact time that each plane arrives and departs so that the flights operate in an orderly fashion and air traffic control towers are not overwhelmed.
“It’s all coordinated,” FAA spokesperson Rick Breitenfeldt said. “It gets more refined each year. We learn each year and make small improvements around the edges.”
Which airports are involved in the reservation system?
There are about 750 parking spots for planes at five area airports: LAX, Hollywood Burbank, Van Nuys, Hawthorne and Long Beach.
Private planes that can’t reserve a parking spot at one of those five airports can drop off their clients and then fly off to park at an airfield in either Santa Ana, Santa Monica or Ontario.
“This year parking is really tight, and a lot of folks are going to be doing drop-offs and go,” Breitenfeldt said.
The FAA used this reservation system during the last two Super Bowls — in Tampa Bay last year and in the Miami area the previous year — as well as the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, which drew about 140,000 fans in October.
What about regular flights at LAX? How busy will the airport get this weekend?
LAX, which handled about 130,000 passengers a day last year, is expecting an additional 50,000 passengers traveling to the Super Bowl, with Friday, Saturday and Monday expected to be the busiest days.
Airport officials said they can’t estimate how many extra commercial flights are landing and departing on the weekend because demand for air travel has been increasing as Americans become more comfortable flying during a pandemic. Also, many of the extra passengers flying in for the game are filling up flights that would otherwise be partially empty.
Delta Air Lines has added five direct flights to Los Angeles from Cincinnati this weekend to accommodate fans of the Cincinnati Bengals, according to airline officials. United Airlines and American Airlines each added six.
The bizarre economy of Super Bowl merchandise: What happens to the losing team’s ‘champion’ apparel?
Right now, thousands of caps, T-shirts, sweatshirts and face masks proclaiming the Los Angeles Rams the next Super Bowl champion are sitting in boxes. What happens if they lose?
When will be the busiest time for private jet activity?
Most travelers to the Super Bowl will fly in during the two or three days before the game so they can take part in pregame parties. And many will try to take off shortly after the game is over, between 8 p.m. Sunday and 2 a.m. Monday, according to jet operators.
How much does it cost to fly a private plane to the Super Bowl?
The price tag for charter flights to Los Angeles during the weekend varies based on the size of the plane, the size of the traveling party and the distance traveled.
A charter from Las Vegas to Los Angeles can range from about $5,000 each way for a turboprop plane that can seat a maximum of six people, to a larger jet for about $15,000 one way with a lavatory, a flight attendant and leather seats that can carry up to 12 people.
A less-expensive alternative would be an independent carrier that operates small jets on regular routes, seating up to 30 passengers. Those fly between Las Vegas and L.A. for about $300 each way.