The New England Patriots have become the first NFL team to buy their own plane to fly to games. Make that two planes.
Sources tell ESPN that the reigning Super Bowl champions bought two 767 Boeing wide-body jets in the offseason and
retrofitted them with all first-class seats, some of which recline completely. On the outside of at least one of the planes
is the team logo and five Lombardi trophies on the tail.
These planes, depending on miles flown and condition, generally cost between $5 million and $65 million. A source said the
planes the Patriots bought are extended range, which allows the planes to fly nonstop for about 12 hours.
A brand-new plane could cost $200 million.
One plane will be used as the main plane for the season, while the other will be the backup, with flight operations being
run out of Providence, Rhode Island, sources said. Patriots spokesman Stacey James said team officials would not be
publicly commenting on the acquisitions.
NFL teams haven’t thought much about buying their own planes in the past, with only 10 games on the road. But charter
travel has gotten more expensive over the past couple of years, due to the major carriers starting to retire the bigger
planes that fly the teams around.
The bigger planes — which can carry a full team, its support staff and the onerous amount of equipment the team needs on
the road — are being retired because they are nearing a point in their life cycle where they have to be stripped, fully
gutted and reworked in order to satisfy Federal Aviation Administration requirements. Airlines like Delta and American have
chosen to begin retiring the planes instead of going through what would be a cost-prohibitive reboot.
American said last year that it would no longer fly the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts,
Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins. At least two of those teams, the Steelers and the Dolphins,
took their business to charter-only airline Miami Air, sources said.
The rising cost of chartering flights for NFL teams makes the decision to buy a plane somewhat easier. Sources with
knowledge of the deals teams have done with charter companies say the 10 round-trip flights per season can cost up to $4