To the list of challenges that come with being the most widely traveled team in football — college or pro — the University of Hawaii might face a new one: its fans grabbing too many of the airline seats.
As the Warriors prepare to book their trip to play at Nevada-Las Vegas on Sept. 17, there might not be enough seats available for the team to fly on the same commercial flight, officials said.
"If we want to get out on a Wednesday or Thursday commercial flight, we may have difficulty getting the whole team on one commercial flight," athletic director Jim Donovan said he was told. "Because everybody has known for a long time what the date of the UNLV game is, a lot of people have booked early."
While travel agents say there might not be as many people going to Las Vegas as in previous years, they appear to be booking their flights much earlier this year to minimize fuel surcharges and rising fares.
"People are trying to keep the costs down and making their reservations earlier," said Rachel Shimamoto of TravelWays. Flights that used to go for about $400 now run twice that, some agents say.
In the past, as many as 15,000 UH fans have attended Warriors games in Las Vegas, some of them transplanted Hawaii resident living on the mainland, but most traveling from the islands.
UH said it is studying the options of returning home after the Sept. 10 game at Washington or remaining on the mainland, as head coach Greg McMackin prefers. It had already held flights between Seattle and Las Vegas.
Donovan said he would like to have the team return immediately after the Washington game by charter to preserve two or three days of class time, but said financial considerations and, now, airline-seat availability, might become factors in the decision.
According to a UH self-study as part of the process for NCAA Division I certification, football players averaged 18.6 days of missed class time over the past three seasons, a figure Donovan said he is trying to reduce, where possible.
"The problem is we’re constantly behind the 8 ball because of the fact we have six road games and have to fly at least 2,500 miles before we can go and play anybody."
Ideally, he said, UH would charter home from Seattle immediately after the Washington game Saturday night and charter back to Las Vegas in midweek. But with rising fuel prices and the athletic department’s budget crunch, that might be financially prohibitive at as much as $120,000 for one leg.
"It has to be a balance between the missed class time and the financial sides of it," Donovan said. "If finances weren’t an issue we’d charter everything. But they are (an issue), so we’ve got to find a balance."
Even if UH remains on the mainland between the Washington and UNLV games it will still travel upwards of 30,000 miles in 2011 or more than the most widely traveled NFL team is scheduled to do.