One big road game can create a spur-of-the-moment traveling frenzy and that certainly happened last week in the land of the Razorbacks.
After University of Arkansas football fans found out their favorite team would be playing Penn State in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, the race for flights to Tampa was on.
Breeze Airways, the only airline flying nonstop from Northwest Arkansas National Airport to Tampa, saw so much buying that it added a flight to Tampa on Dec. 31 and scheduled a return-to-Northwest-Arkansas flight for the evening of Jan. 1. Within 80 hours of announcing those new flights, the Dec. 31 flight was packed with fans, and the Jan. 1 plane back to Arkansas was filling up, too.
Allegiant Air, which flies from XNA to St. Pete/Clearwater that’s close to Tampa, was another winner, thanks to the bowl game. By late last week, Allegiant’s website was showing seats on its Dec. 31 flight to St. Pete were no longer available. Tickets on a Jan. 3 flight back to Arkansas were gone as well.
The other airlines serving XNA —American, Delta, Frontier and United — appeared to experience their own increase in Tampa-bound travelers.
While it’s tough to plan ahead for bowl games because it’s never clear which bowl will invite the Razorbacks, it is possible in other sports that involve the Hogs.
These are our air-travel recommendations on how to prepare for the Hogs on the road in 2022 without breaking the bank.
Sweet 16 in San Antonio
The Arkansas men’s basketball team made the Sweet 16 last season, and they’re well on their way to lots of success this season.
The NCAA knows where March Madness games will occur in 2022, but it won’t announce which teams play at each site until Selection Sunday (March 13). We’re pretty sure the night of March 13 is going to be a March Madness scramble for seats on planes, and we’re here to help.
Because Breeze Airways flies nonstop from XNA to one of four different sites where those Sweet 16 games will be played (San Antonio), we’d buy Breeze tickets to the city now.
The San Antonio games are set for March 24 and March 26. The best Breeze flights occur the morning of March 24, and there’s a return flight to XNA on March 27. Book them. You won’t do better.
As there are four sites where Sweet 16 games will occur, you’d have just a 25% chance of playing this one right if the only reason to go is to watch the Hogs. But, since Breeze tickets can be canceled and are fully refundable, it’s worth a shot now. You can always cancel later.
The better option is to plan on going to San Antonio for the Sweet 16 regardless of whether the Hogs end up in San Antonio. With NCAA basketball, you can’t go wrong.
For what it’s worth, ESPN’s basketball expert predicted last week that Arkansas will be a No. 4 seed in the South bracket and they would end up in San Antonio if they win their first two tournament games in Milwaukee. Yes, it’s crazy early to accurately predict such things, but it’s fun to consider the possibilities.
Final Four in New Orleans
The basketball Hogs really are super good this year, but are they Final Four good? Maybe?
The Final Four is in New Orleans on April 2 and 4, and Breeze flies there nonstop from XNA.
Here’s how we’d do this if the Final Four sounds good: Express your total confidence in the Hogs and don’t fly to New Orleans on Breeze until April 3 because you are so absolutely confident that they’ll make it to the championship game on April 4. The airfare is affordable per usual on Breeze, but it might not be when other fans finish reading this paragraph and log on to the Breeze Airways website.
Just like the Sweet 16 in San Antonio, it’s the Final Four that we’re talking about here. The games will be great, Hogs or no Hogs so it probably makes sense to plan on attending no matter who makes it all the way to the championship.
Word of warning: You’ll save a lot on airfare by buying now, but tickets to the Final Four are a minimum of $175 apiece and that assumes you want to sit way up at the top.
The Razorbacks are good at 9-2, and ESPN predicts they’ll be a No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament, starting play in California. The odds of the Razorbacks staying a No. 9 seed after the regular season are near zero, making it impossible to plan air travel.
If the team did keep winning and reached the Sweet 16, there are Sweet 16 games in Wichita that would be the best option for Northwest Arkansas fans. Wichita is a driving destination, not a place to fly from XNA.
But if the team did advance to the Final Four, that’ll be in Minneapolis. It’s Delta Air Lines that can get you there nonstop from XNA.
Baseball in Omaha?
Write this down and pretend you didn’t already know it: Dave Van Horn’s baseball team is going to be good.
The College World Series is June 17-28 in Omaha.
The trouble with buying anything now is that the tournament schedule is complex and the air-travel-to-Omaha situation isn’t great as XNA doesn’t have nonstops there.
Yes, you can purchase a flight from XNA (with a connection at Dallas/Fort Worth or Chicago O’Hare most likely) to Omaha that arrives before the College World Series starts and that returns home after it ends for a little more than $350 (not bad).
But, do you really want to spend several days in Omaha if the Hogs don’t make it to the bitter end? That’s right. You don’t. That’s why most fans drive to Omaha to see the Razorbacks.
If you are itching to see the Razorbacks on the road, we’d target the Texas A&M series that’s April 22-24.
Allegiant Air flies to Houston Hobby on the morning of April 22 and returns to Northwest Arkansas on April 25. Airfare? How does $103 roundtrip sound?
United Airlines fares to Houston’s larger Bush Intercontinental airport aren’t bad, either, at $262 roundtrip. It’s worth considering that option, too.