Sports Law • Risk Management

Sport Team Travel Risk Management

The big news this week was the Jet Blue pilot Clayton Osbon’s breakdown on a flight from New York to Las Vegas, causing his co-pilot to lock him out of the cockpit. The pilot proceeded to rant about Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Al-Qaida, while walking in the aisle of the plane until passengers restrained him until the plane landed safely in Texas. Despite this incident, official statistics reveal that there has never been a safer time to fly. When considering your team’s transportation plans, flying is a safer alternative to any other travel.

However, there are some drawbacks, including TSA rules and regulations, increasing fares with the price of oil soaring, and the hassle at airports.

If your team flies on a regular basis, you probably have developed a system so that the coaches, athletes and trainers know what to expect. However, if your organization is venturing into the friendly skies for the first time as a group, there are some safety and risk management issues to address. Will the organization be making the reservations or will individual teammates make their reservations? Make sure that whomever is making the reservation uses the name of each teammate that matches their driver’s license or passport. If the name on the government identification is William and the ticket is under the name Bill, TSA will probably not let the person even enter into security.
Of course, team members who haven’t flown much need to be advised before getting to the airport about restrictions as to what can be carried on board the plane and packed in luggage. Make sure that they are advised not to carry on board any knives, weapons or liquids that do not meet with TSA restrictions. Remind them that they will have to take off jackets, scarves, shoes and put computers in a separate bin when going through security.

Make sure that if you are traveling as a team that you arrive at the airport on both ends of the journey with even more time than recommended. At minimum, give yourselves 2 hours from the time you arrive until the plane is departing. Many planes start boarding between 20 to 45 minutes before departure. There may be a long line to check in bags and there is likely to be a long line at security --- plan on 45 minutes for security. The team will want to buy water and/or food, use the restrooms, and possibly wander around a bit before the plane boards, which means adding at least 20 minutes to your time schedule. In order to make sure that everyone is ready to board in time, you probably need to meet at the gate at least 15 minutes before boarding.
There is a chance that checked in luggage will be delayed or lost and so it’s a good idea for each team member to bring a carry on with whatever they might need during the first 24 hours of arriving to your destination. If your game will be played immediately, consider having players carry their uniforms in their carry on luggage. However, it is far better to plan your arrival early so the team can acclimate and recover from jet lag.

Despite its challenges, air travel for teams is safe and can be a terrific team building opportunity.