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Major League Baseball Celebrates 90 Years of Providing Chartered Flights for Teams

Major League Baseball Celebrates 90 Years of Providing Chartered Flights for Teams

BY LUKAS WOERNER Published on February 27, 2024 0 COMMENTS

As the 2024 Major League Baseball (MLB) season kicks off this month with Spring Training, thousands of fans, players, and media members are flying into regional airports across Florida and Arizona. Baseball has served a long and historic role in U.S. history, providing memories to millions of fans for over a century. 2024 also marks a unique year in baseball history as the MLB will celebrate its 90th anniversary of the first chartered plane for an away game.

 

The airline and plane each team uses | Photo: Reddit

 

In 1934, the Cincinnati Reds were the first team to fly a chartered plane, in which they flew for a three-game series to play the Chicago Cubs. Six players famously opted to take the train instead of the flight. It was believed that because flying was quicker, it would allow players to have more rest in between games. 

 



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Almost 100 years later, the Reds continue to charter flights to play the Cubs in Chicago. Although the Reds broke ground as the first team to fly, in 2022, they flew the second least miles out of any team in the MLB, at around 25,000 miles (40,234 kilometers) for the season. The Seattle Mariners had the longest distance flown, with about 46,000 miles (74,030 kilometers).

 

Onboard a charter flight for the Chicago White Sox | Photo: Major League Baseball

 

Flying for baseball teams has changed considerably since the inaugural flight, with some baseball teams continuing to charter commercial planes while others have bought their own private aircraft. The first privately owned team aircraft was a DC-3 that the Brooklyn Dodgers used between 1949 and 1957, a period in which the Dodgers won five pennants and a World Series in 1955. The aircraft was reportedly not bought but was won by a benefactor of the team over a game of craps.

 



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In today's MLB, only one team owns an aircraft, as the Detroit Tigers own a Miami Air Boeing 737. Each of the other 29 teams charter airplanes, usually on a per-season basis, from either United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, IAERO Airways, or Air Canada. Unlike the National Basketball Association (NBA), which recently added Emirates as their official airline sponsor, the MLB has no league-wide airline partnership. 

 

The Detroit Tigers own a plane similar to this one | Photo: Flickr

 

Some teams have official airlines as sponsors, either from a carrier with a large presence in that market or a foreign airline looking to expand its U.S. presence by connecting with sports fans. The most recent example involves American Airlines signing a sponsorship deal with the Texas Rangers. American's headquarters are in Fort Worth, and its largest hub is at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). The airline now partners with North Texas sports teams from the four major leagues and holds naming rights for the American Airlines Center. 

 

Other airlines that sponsor MLB teams include:

 

  • Alaska Airlines: Seattle Mariners
  • American Airlines: Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs
  • Delta Air Lines: Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, and New York Mets
  • EVA AirLos Angeles AngelsSan Francisco Giants, and Oakland Athletics
  • Southwest Airlines: Colorado Rockies
  • Starlux Airlines: Los Angeles Dodgers
  • United Airlines: Chicago White Sox
  • WestJet: Toronto Blue Jays

 



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