116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Less than 24 hours after bowl game executives unveiled that the University of Iowa was being invited to this year’s Transperfect Music City Bowl in Nashville, the Hawkeye faithful were buying up travel packages that — for the first time in decades — don’t include a chartered flight option “due to the pilot shortage.”
“We were not able to secure a chartered plane this year due to crew and staff shortages over the holidays,” Duane Jasper, owner and chief executive officer of Travel Leaders/Destinations Unlimited, told The Gazette.
“I cannot think of time when a charter wasn’t offered,” he said. “Unfortunately, the airline industry is facing staffing and crew shortages, and a charter was not available this year.”
Destinations Unlimited has been coordinating Hawkeye football bowl game travel packages for more than a quarter century — offering as many as 14 charter flights to Pasadena, Calif. in 2016, when the Hawkeyes last played in the Rose Bowl.
More typically, the travel agency offers two or just one chartered flights — like for last year’s Hawkeye appearance in the VRBO Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
Without flight availability this bowl season, Destinations Unlimited put together a 46-passenger motor coach package to Tennessee for the New Year’s Eve Music City Bowl against the Kentucky Wildcats — including three nights at the Virgin Hotels Nashville.
Given the motor coach option sold out within hours, Jasper said his agency is considering adding another bus, scheduled to leave Cedar Rapids on Dec. 29 and return New Year’s Day.
“It is a long drive but can be fun experience,” he said. “We will watch several movies, play some games, have a few beverages and snacks along the way. That all makes the time go by fast, plus we make a couple of stops so people can stretch their legs.”
The goal is to be in Nashville in time to attend an “Iowa basketball watch party” Dec. 29, according to Jasper.
The Hawkeyes never before have played in the Music City Bowl, setting up a new experience for fans who have faithfully followed their team on its many bowl trips to Florida and Texas. The Hawks were supposed to make their bowl debut in the Music City in 2020, but lost that chance when COVID-19 concerns forced its cancellation.
For fans who want to take advantage this year but fail to snag a seat on a chartered bus, Destinations Unlimited is offering three- and four-night packages for anyone who can find a way to Nashville. Those packages include hotel stays, ground transportation to the stadium and to UI events, and on-site staff accommodations. The agency also is willing to help book seats on a United, Delta, American or Allegiant flight.
“We anticipate that nearly two hundred people will travel with us,” Jasper said.
None of the package deals include game tickets, meals or travel insurance.
Prices range from the cheapest $695 to the costliest $1,795 option for someone wanting a solo room and a ride down to Nashville.
UI Athletics didn’t respond to The Gazette’s questions Monday about how many tickets Iowa has been allotted for the game to be played in Nissan Stadium — home to the Tennessee Titans — with a 68,000 capacity.
But the Athletics Department is selling tickets through its ticket office to season ticket holders and directing the rest of the public to buy through Ticketmaster. Prices range from $20 in the upper deck to more than $100 on the lower level.
For season ticket holders, UI Athletics is filling orders based on “current priority point total,” setting a Friday deadline for prioritization.
This year’s faceoff against Kentucky amounts to a rematch after the Hawkeyes lost to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl last year, when Destinations Unlimited coordinated Hawkeye bowl travel for about 400 people in the first week of ticket sales.
For that game, the agency sold out its only 240-seat charter flight within 24 hours.
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