The Arizona Cardinals have just acquired a swanky private jet to transport players and staff to away games, rather than relying on charter contracts.
Arizona Cardinals flying Boeing 777-200ER
The Arizona Cardinals have acquired a Boeing 777-200ER, which has the registration code N867DA (you can track the plane’s movement at this link). This aircraft entered service in 2002, and flew for Delta Air Lines for nearly two decades. During the pandemic Delta retired its entire Boeing 777 fleet, and I figured most of these planes will fly again with some operator, given that they’re still pretty efficient and capable planes.
The Arizona Cardinals will put this plane into service for the first time this weekend, as they travel to Michigan to play the Detroit Lions. The 1,671-mile flight is just a small fraction of the plane’s range.
As Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill describes this Boeing 777 acquisition:
“It is a major undertaking every time we travel for a game. This aircraft will not only provide major convenience but also maximum comfort for our players when getting them to and from road games. Every NFL team is looking for advantages whenever possible and we think this will certainly provide one.”
The Arizona Cardinals are only the second NFL team to acquire a private jet to fly teams around in. Several years back the New England Patriots acquired two Boeing 767s. The Boeing 777 is a much larger and more modern aircraft, so I think it’s safe to say that the Arizona Cardinals have the coolest private jet in the NFL.
How much will the Arizona Cardinals actually fly this plane, though? It’s stated that the team has traveled 109,277 air miles over the past five years, so that’s an average of around 22,000 miles per year. Since a 777 flies somewhere around 500 miles per hour, that means the plane will fly an average of around 44 hours per year for these purposes, which is very light use for a jet like this. Of course it’s possible that the plane may be used for some other flights as well.
What’s the inside of the Arizona Cardinals Boeing 777 like?
The Arizona Cardinals Boeing 777 features 288 seats, distributed over three cabins. It would appear that the team has maintained exactly the same interiors as there were when Delta flew this plane. So while the team hasn’t released any pictures of the cabin, we still know what the cabins look like.
Delta installed 28 business class seats on Boeing 777s, which are fully flat, have privacy doors, and are in a 1-2-1 configuration.
Then there are 48 premium economy seats, which are in a 2-4-2 configuration. These feature significantly more space than you’d find in economy.
Then there are also 212 economy class seats, which are in a 3-3-3 configuration. This is at least a noticeably more spacious configuration than you’ll find on many airlines operating the 777, which have 10 seats per row (rather than nine).
I wonder what the economics are like
The Arizona Cardinals are now the second team to have their own private jet to fly teams around in, so what do the economics of this look like?
Most NFL teams fly around by chartering planes from major airlines. Chartering planes in that way presumably has higher per-hour operating costs:
- Airlines often have to position planes for these charters, and the team would get charged when the plane has to fly empty to or from a hub airport
- The airline also needs to make money on the charter
Now that the Arizona Cardinals have their own jet, they can just fly it around as need be. That being said, there are some costs and challenges associated with that:
- The team flies “only” 20,000 miles per year, and they need to have their own crews (or get them through a third party), which isn’t as efficient as how airlines can staff planes
- While the list price for a new Boeing 777 is over $250 million, these planes depreciate a lot when they’re used, and I’d guess that this plane was acquired for significantly less than a tenth of that (purely speculation on my part)
- The one downside to the team having its own plane is operational reliability; if there are maintenance issues, there’s not just a second plane that can be substituted in, while that is something that an airline can offer as part of a charter agreement
Regardless of the economics, ultimately this is a nice luxury to have, and I’m sure the team loves it. There’s a lot of value to that as well, since NFL teams want to keep their talent (and attract new talent).
The Arizona Cardinals have acquired their own Boeing 777, making this the second NFL team to get a private jet to fly teams around in. The jet is nearly 20 years old and used to fly for Delta, before being retired during the pandemic.
It would appear that there have been no changes to the interior of the plane, so that’s a pretty nice interior for the short flights that this plane will primarily be operating.
What do you make of the Arizona Cardinals’ Boeing 777?
(Tip of the hat to Mike & Woodrow)