“O. Zero. None. Zilch.”
That’s the number of flights the Philadelphia Union has chartered this season, according to a tweet from captain Alejandro Bedoya, which confirmed reporting from Jonathan Tannenwald in a story for the Philadelphia Inquirer that put the spotlight on the issue of charter flights ahead of a stretch of three games in eight days for the team.
The Union play New York Red Bulls away on Sunday before a midweek match in San Jose against the Earthquakes and another Sunday away game at Columbus Crew before ending the regular season at home against NYCFC the following Sunday.
It’s arguably one of the most important stretches in the team’s history with an Eastern Conference title (and the first round bye and Champions League berth that come with it) still within reach.
Yet, instead of investing the money (reportedly in the $150,000 range) to minimize the travel time to all three away games, the team has opted to return home from the Red Bull game, fly commercial to San Jose the next day and return home again before flying commercial again to Columbus.
Sporting Director Ernst Tanner made the case that the decision to not charter a flight to San Jose was made based on what was best for the players in terms of regeneration the day after the game in a statement sent to the Inquirer, which Chief Business Office Tim McDermott alluded to when he told fans asking him about it on Twitter that the decision “had nothing to do at all with costs.”
Bedoya, who has been outspoken about the issue — he tweeted out of a photo of the (lack of) legroom on their commercial flight when the team traveled to Vancouver in April — referenced the charter flight issue again in relation to the Union’s upcoming schedule and tied it in with other issues that will surely be part of the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations like eliminating allocation money and increasing the salary cap.
Teams are allowed to charter up to four flights a season but are not required to charter any by the league. Back in July, New York Red Bulls defender Tim Parker chronicled the misadventures of commercial air travel on a recovery day when they had to endure several weather-related cancellations trying to return home on a commercial flight from Orlando.
Other previous lengthy trips to away games this season for the Union have included a 2-0 loss to LA Galaxy, a 4-0 loss to Real Salt Lake, a 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City, a 3-2 win over Minnesota United and a 1-1 draw at Vancouver Whitecaps.