Cool: Arizona Cardinals Acquire Former Delta Boeing 777

Cool: Arizona Cardinals Acquire Former Delta Boeing 777

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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.

Arizona Cardinals Boeing 777-200ER

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.

Delta Boeing 777-200ER business class

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.

Delta Boeing 777-200ER premium 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).

Bottom line

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)

Conversations (35)
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  1. Don S Guest

    I would like to fly this cardinal 777
    If anyone knows of a reference to looking into flying this gig i'd consider it although it may be conflict with my present employer

  2. JB Guest

    The patriots only have one 767 now. The other 767 that they used to have is now owned by Eastern and I see it at MIA quite often (it still maintains the same body color, with the patriots title and tail trophies taken off).

  3. Eskimo Guest

    It's a sports franchise. Economics of 777 doesn't matter, you always make money.
    Like players and owners, many of them spend their collective income on every stupid things.

  4. Tim Dunn Diamond

    We have no idea what kind of economics the Cardinals came up with but we do know that the value of 777-200ERs like this aircraft are virtually zero. American and United are the only two large operators of the type left in the world.
    it is also possible that Delta will be providing maintenance and possibly ground handling services for the Cardinals in return for a low acquisition price. Delta has every incentive to...

    We have no idea what kind of economics the Cardinals came up with but we do know that the value of 777-200ERs like this aircraft are virtually zero. American and United are the only two large operators of the type left in the world.
    it is also possible that Delta will be providing maintenance and possibly ground handling services for the Cardinals in return for a low acquisition price. Delta has every incentive to get something out of the plane while the right costs can be worth it for the Cardinals. Few sports teams have taken an off the shelf commercial aircraft and used it which makes the economics very different.

    As for who might charter the aircraft, the aircraft is still configured in normal passenger service although for above average comfort. There are plenty of entities that could be interested in using it for charter services; it doesn't have to be sports teams.

    I am sure the Cardinals have people that can do economic analysis - but none of us are going to know whether it makes economic sense or not.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      You can post as many what if's that you'd like.

      If it made great economic sense, more than 2 NFL teams would do it.

      This was ego/PR.

    2. Donato Guest

      The economics started to make sense when airlines were covid-sizing their fleets and dumping metal at ridiculous prices.

    3. Jordan Guest

      "American and United are the only two large operators of the type left in the world"

      777-200ER Operators (approx)

      Air France: 21
      British Airways: 43
      KLM: 15

      Many other carriers have a 4-10 of the type operational..

    4. Tim Dunn Diamond

      first of all, I will grant you that a fleet of 40 widebody aircraft is a large fleet for any airline.
      However, American and United still have larger fleets of 777-200s than British Airways; United's fleet of 777-200ERs alone (including the grounded Pratt versions) is larger right now than its 787 fleet.
      None of which changes that almost 90% of the 777-200s that were built have been parked which has depressed resale values...

      first of all, I will grant you that a fleet of 40 widebody aircraft is a large fleet for any airline.
      However, American and United still have larger fleets of 777-200s than British Airways; United's fleet of 777-200ERs alone (including the grounded Pratt versions) is larger right now than its 787 fleet.
      None of which changes that almost 90% of the 777-200s that were built have been parked which has depressed resale values and which makes the acquisition price for the Cardinals very low.

  5. Mason Guest

    The Detroit Red Wings and Tigers have also had their own (shared) aircraft for many years.

  6. Amy Fischer Guest

    The 777 is an odd choice for the team as it is more AC than they need. I could imagine it being needed if Business was installed throughout the cabins, although, a smaller plane would be more economical. They need cargo for baggage but they don’t need 777 cargo.

    They can make money if they lease it out during the off season which they can more easily do with the Delta configuration intact.
    The...

    The 777 is an odd choice for the team as it is more AC than they need. I could imagine it being needed if Business was installed throughout the cabins, although, a smaller plane would be more economical. They need cargo for baggage but they don’t need 777 cargo.

    They can make money if they lease it out during the off season which they can more easily do with the Delta configuration intact.
    The could also make an agreement with a sports team that plays during their off season.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      The NFL season runs from August to (with success) February. There are no US pro sports leagues it doesn't overlap with.

    2. Chris Guest

      NFL teams bring quite a lot of people and the people they bring are often quite large. This can be seen by the types of aircraft that NFL teams that don't have their own aircraft charter which are generally either multiple narrow bodies or widebodies, typically 767s. Given the bargain basement prices to buy these aircraft which were kept in very good condition (Delta TechOps are some of the best in the world) and were...

      NFL teams bring quite a lot of people and the people they bring are often quite large. This can be seen by the types of aircraft that NFL teams that don't have their own aircraft charter which are generally either multiple narrow bodies or widebodies, typically 767s. Given the bargain basement prices to buy these aircraft which were kept in very good condition (Delta TechOps are some of the best in the world) and were given a cabin overhaul only 1 to 2 years ago, the aircraft was basically just bought for the acquisition cost and the new lick of paint.

      They aren't operating the aircraft themselves but will be outsourcing operations to another airline. The patriots use Eastern to crew and fly the plane, would not be surprised if they do the same.

  7. Steve Diamond

    Wait so Delta paid all that money to just recently upgrade the cabin to get new PE and Delta One seats just to sell/retire the plane that seems like a much bigger waste than a billionaire buying a plane that he needs for his billion dollar business.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      Delta's last reconfiguration of its 777 fleet was well before covid.
      They took a non-cash charge of about $1 billion to early retire their 777 fleet or 18 aircraft, most of which was attributable to its 10 younger, more capable 777-200LRs; this aircraft is one of the older ERs. Their charge will eventually be reduced by whatever they sell their 777s for.
      Given the fuel burn difference of 30% per seat between the...

      Delta's last reconfiguration of its 777 fleet was well before covid.
      They took a non-cash charge of about $1 billion to early retire their 777 fleet or 18 aircraft, most of which was attributable to its 10 younger, more capable 777-200LRs; this aircraft is one of the older ERs. Their charge will eventually be reduced by whatever they sell their 777s for.
      Given the fuel burn difference of 30% per seat between the 777-200 and the A350 - which is Delta's ultra long range aircraft now, replacing the 777s, the $1 billion charge would have been worked down pretty quickly esp. as jet fuel sits now above $2.25/gallon

  8. Tim Dunn Diamond

    Delta's 777s by far had the most comfortable coach fleet in the US airline international fleet. In contrast, the 10 abreast economy configuration in most 777s and 9 abreast in 787s which American and United use is tight for even normal people, let alone anyone that might be above average in size as most athletes are. Even Delta's A330s and A350s have more seat per coach passenger than AA and UA's 787s and 777s. Given...

    Delta's 777s by far had the most comfortable coach fleet in the US airline international fleet. In contrast, the 10 abreast economy configuration in most 777s and 9 abreast in 787s which American and United use is tight for even normal people, let alone anyone that might be above average in size as most athletes are. Even Delta's A330s and A350s have more seat per coach passenger than AA and UA's 787s and 777s. Given that passenger comfort and the ability to comfortably use a higher percentage of seats is a consideration for a charter, it might make sense to buy a plane like Delta's 777 rather than charter other aircraft given that charters can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in part because of all of the positioning flights that have to be done for sports charters.
    Given the low usage, the Cardinals might incur low maintenance costs esp. if this plane had alot of expensive maintenance checks before it was retired.
    The real challenge is that they will use the plane so infrequently that it could be difficult to find well-trained crews that are willing to fly so little.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      If buying a plane is such a great economic deal, why don’t all NFL teams do it?

      It’s not like the Cardinals cracked a secret code.

  9. Paul Schwartz Guest

    It’s a great airplane at a great price. Delta recently put in new interiors in that fleet so it’s smart not to touch it. True it’s low hours of usage but they could hire it out too to pay for itself and keep those connected to the airplane fully employed. It’s smart.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      You have no idea what the economics of this is vs. chartering. Your comment is the definition of “talking out of your ass”.

      The fact that only one other NFL team has done this indicates that the economics aren’t obviously a slam dunk, or they’d all do it.

    2. Tim Dunn Diamond

      The Cardinals might well be paying a premium but it might not be as large as you think.
      Further the NBA did figure out how to provide premium configured commercial aircraft and bought a bunch of near end of life Delta 757s which Delta continues to operate and maintain exclusively (or nearly so) for NBA use. Even more so for the NBA vs. the NFL, schedule and using the best airports (not necessarily ones that Delta uses for passenger service) matters.

    3. Never In Doubt Guest

      The economics of NBA travel (# of games, players, staff) is likely quite different than the NFL.

  10. DuaneU2 Member

    The Cardinals play the Cowboys in Dallas this weekend. The Lions will be in Seattle to play the Seahawks.

    1. Abe Froman Guest

      This story is two weeks old. The Cardinals flew on the plane for the first time on Dec. 18th, for their embarrassing loss to the Lions.

  11. Randall Cunningham Guest

    @d3kingggggggg :Go EAGLES. DALLAS STINKS.

    Now to make this post somewhat relevant. I flew on this frame many times as an intern for ASA in 2002.

    ATL-MCO, CDG, LGW, NRT.

    1. D3kingg Guest

      @Randall Cunningham

      Maybe when you were playing sir. Dallas defense leads the league with 33 turnovers but they will fall flat in the playoffs. This is all on topic . An NFL team leased a 777-200. I’m sure Ben is a Bucs fan.

  12. Joseph J Gonzales Guest

    It's obvious that Show guy is the one that doesn't have a clue. Way to go Bidwell, your thinking is first class, and now your team flys it. Less stress for players, and way more comfortable for your players and coaching staff.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      “ Less stress for players, and way more comfortable for your players and coaching staff.”

      Say what? Do you think the rest of the league is flying commercial?

      They all (besides NE) charter, and unless they’re chartering single aisle planes(?), the only thing different for the players is the name painted on the outside of the plane.

  13. pstm91 Diamond

    Fun fact - the Arizona Cardinals are the oldest continuous NFL team, dating back to the 1800's, despite having moved location a few times. So a 20 year old plane suits them ;)

    Meanwhile Abromovich has just purchased his own personal 787, upgrading from a 767...

    1. Steve Diamond

      Would love to see pics of Roman's new 787 once completed, sounds like that plane is brand new and was never used after delivery. Im so glad there are pics of his 767 now that is for sale.

  14. shoeguy Gold

    Whoever is making business decisions on behalf of the team clearly doesn't have a clue as to what they are doing or how to run an enterprise.

    1. Steve Diamond

      You must have no idea how the NFL works, the money involved in the game or the concept of taxes for you to make that comment, im sure you are a much smarter business mind than a couple of billionaires who own a NFL team.

    2. shoeguy Gold

      I am pretty sure you're as clueless as you claim others to be.

  15. Pmv Guest

    So I wonder how they decide who gets the squishy seats?!

  16. Woodrow Gold

    https://onemileatatime.com/questions/general/nfl-az-cardinals-777-200/

  17. Woodrow Gold

    https://onemileatatime.com/questions/page/2/

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Steve Diamond

You must have no idea how the NFL works, the money involved in the game or the concept of taxes for you to make that comment, im sure you are a much smarter business mind than a couple of billionaires who own a NFL team.

2
Jordan Guest

"American and United are the only two large operators of the type left in the world" 777-200ER Operators (approx) Air France: 21 British Airways: 43 KLM: 15 Many other carriers have a 4-10 of the type operational..

1
Don S Guest

I would like to fly this cardinal 777 If anyone knows of a reference to looking into flying this gig i'd consider it although it may be conflict with my present employer

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