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How do sports clubs fly? JP4 interviews That Aviation Italia

AIR CHARTER REVOLUTIONIZES SPORTS TEAM TRAVEL

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While some teams have always preferred to fly private, in the past, the sports world was accustomed to mainly using commercial flights (at least for away games not easily reachable by train or coach). Only since the pandemic has air charter become the preferred means of transportation even for smaller sports teams.

The reasons, of course, are due to a form of protection for athletes, but not only that. Over time, the advantages of air charter and private flying have proven to be a dynamic and efficient solution that allows for tailor-made customization to the specific needs of teams and management.

This is the topic discussed in the interview with THAT! by JP4, the leading Italian magazine in Aeronautics and Space that offers its readers a wide range of topics on general and commercial aviation, airports and airlines, aerospace exhibitions, and much more.

 

  1. HOW AIR TRANSPORT DEDICATED TO THE SPORTS WORLD HAS CHANGED
  2. THE ADVANTAGES OF AIR CHARTER: FLEXIBILITY AND CUSTOMIZATION
  3. LOGISTIC EFFICIENCY OF PRIVATE FLIGHT AND ASSISTANCE

 

HOW AIR TRANSPORT DEDICATED TO THE SPORTS WORLD HAS CHANGED

If there is a before and after COVID-19 in the world of air transport, in the context of charter flights for sports team travel, the change is even more evident.

There was a time when charter flights were used only by the wealthiest teams, mainly for reasons of comfort, customized logistics, or image.

THAT! began managing flights for sports teams about twenty years ago, offering club airlines that no longer exist – like Eurofly, Air Italy, Lauda Air, Livingstone, or Club Air – but that allowed to create exactly the type of service that met the team’s needs.

With the arrival of COVID-19, concerns related to safety and health prompted even clubs with limited budgets to consider renting private planes. The goal was to minimize contact with the public and keep athletes in a protective ‘bubble’ during travel: a crucial aspect of reducing the risk of contagion.

This paradigm shift led sports clubs to prefer tailored flights, turning aircraft rental from a temporary necessity into a new habit in the movement of athletes and management for many teams, including lower-tier teams like Serie B.

Once they experienced firsthand the differences between commercial and private flights, even teams with fewer resources began to see air charter as a useful investment (and no longer as a burden to bear) to improve sports performance and logistical efficiency.

The post-pandemic trend towards the use of private planes by an increasing number of sports teams shows that the perceived benefits far outweigh the slightly higher costs.

Indeed, with the pandemic, air transport dedicated to the sports world has undergone a significant transformation, moving from a luxury concept for the few to a widely adopted optimal travel strategy.

 

THE ADVANTAGES OF AIR CHARTER: FLEXIBILITY AND CUSTOMIZATION

Chartering a plane lets you build the flight according to request.

For a team, whose athletes are called to perform on the field, comfort, menu, and optimization of flight schedules are extremely important because they influence physical well-being and performance.

Luigi Annichini, Founder & Managing Director of THAT!, in the interview given to JP4, said:

 

‘Generally, the choice of aircraft and service depends on the client’s budget.
There are Serie A teams with lower budgets than Serie B teams.
 Furthermore, a distinction must be made for championship away games,
where at most one flies to Sicily (about an hour and 50 minutes of flight)
and for which it is possible to choose between different carriers.
For example, a team with a low budget can reserve a plane with 50-seat cabins
where there is a single seat for each passenger, even for the footballers.
There are teams that, instead, require a minimum of two seats for footballers and you have to opt for larger aircraft.’

 

Therefore, the management of a sports team leaving for an away trip begins with tailor-made consultancy and the search for the right aircraft to meet the requests expressed by the Club.

Every sports flight has different needs that require great organizational and managerial flexibility:

  • Scheduled times based on the match calendar:
    Teams can choose flight times that align perfectly with their schedules, avoiding long waits at airports and minimizing travel-related fatigue;
  • Customized catering:
    Menus set with the team’s nutritionist to meet the caloric and nutritional needs of the athletes (which can vary significantly depending on the sport, training period, and season phase) and for greater flexibility of service timing, which can be decided with the client.
  • Seat pre-assignment and pre-printed boarding passes:
    To minimize check-in and security wait times, reduce stress levels associated with waiting, and significantly improve the flight experience;
  • Customization of the interior and the exterior of the fuselage:
    For tailor-made comfort, to reinforce team identity and spirit; for a marketing and communication strategy to improve brand visibility and reputation.

 

Flights for sports teams offer an unparalleled level of customization and flexibility that THAT!, with its twenty years of experience, tailors to the team with the same skill of a tailor.

 

LOGISTIC EFFICIENCY OF PRIVATE FLIGHT AND ASSISTANCE

The luggage carried by the Club is another hot topic related to charter flights for sports teams.

Luigi Annichini also talked about that during the interview with JP4:

 

‘Clubs carry all kinds of luggage, at least 60 pieces, averaging 1,200 kg in weight, especially boxes,
the large ones that often exceed 30 kg.
Regular customers have switched to aluminium cases that never exceed 25-30 kg and are easily stackable,
but for all hold luggage, it is important to speed up the procedures as much as possible,
with the broker being present at the terminal upon the arrival of the warehouse workers to have the luggage belt ready with the luggage tags issued.
…in addition to personal effects, sacks with the material from the last training session are loaded,
that is, what the warehouse workers could not pack before.’

 

Managing the transportation of teams means dealing with bulky luggage and sports equipment. Material that must be handled with the utmost care and requires constant presence for supervision of operations and management of check-in and boarding procedures.

Flights are usually round trips with the plane waiting for the end of the match, but there are situations, as in the case of Olimpia Basket, which, for Euroleague matches, plans away games with mixed routes and a dedicated plane for several consecutive days, for example, Milan – Athens – Istanbul – Florence or, to give another example, Milan – Valencia – Rimini.

It is therefore clear, the importance of having an intermediary who follows the team and can provide comprehensive assistance at every airport. This is also the reason why THAT!, which mainly operates at three designated ‘home’ airports – Milano Malpensa, Torino, and Bergamo –, in Milan operates in a hybrid system and relies, where agreed with the client, on SEA Prime, the SEA Aeroporti di Milano company dedicated to business flights.

This terminal, usually reserved for flights up to 19 passengers, also hosts flights managed by THAT! upon request, ensuring privacy, speed, and a more exclusive dedicated service.

When passengers arrive – usually individually – they are escorted on board in groups, so as not to have them linger in the terminal, which has limited size.

This means having perfect management of the crew that must welcome on board the various groups as they arrive.

If you want to know some more curiosities about how sports clubs fly, read the article in the May issue of JP4.

 

Contact us for a quote request, we are at your disposal 24/7.

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