Dallas Snow Crimps Super Bowl Travel for Steelers, Packers Fans
By Mary Schlangenstein, Thomas Korosec and Sonja Elmquist - Feb 4, 2011 2:24 PM MT
An American Airlines jet taxis to a gate at DFW International Airport in Dallas. Photographer: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers fans headed to Super Bowl XLV have a narrow window left to reach Dallas, where snow and ice snarled air and ground travel for much of the week.
Some gave up and are selling their game tickets, pushing prices down. Others are rebooking commercial flights and taking chartered airplanes.
“We are putting priority on anything coming from the Super Bowl cities,” said Andrea Huguely, a spokeswoman for American Airlines. “We are doing everything we can to give them priority. We’ve still got today and tomorrow, even Sunday morning.”
Both American and Southwest Airlines Co. said flights they added last week for this weekend should ease the effects of weather-related cancellations on travel to the Feb. 6 game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Dallas Fort Worth area received 2 to 6 inches of snow today on top of sleet and ice earlier in the week.
“The snow on the ground will hang around for the weekend,” said Amber Elliott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. “I hate to say most of it. At least half of it.”
The weather service forecast clear skies tomorrow and Feb. 6 with highs in the 40s, according to its website.
“Some people who aren’t here yet might not make it because of weather and travel problems across the country,” said Bill Lively, president of the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee. “My sense after talking to a lot of hoteliers is that many people are already here because hotels were booked for four-day stays.”
Super Bowl Tickets
Super Bowl ticket prices declined today as trips were canceled and ticketholders turned to online resellers to get back some of their money.
One reseller, San Francisco-based StubHub, offered 500 new Super Bowl tickets today in addition to 700 already listed. The lowest asking price was $1,950, for an end-zone seat. Two days earlier, the cheapest ticket available through the website was $2,575.
“I’d expect it’s due to people canceling their travel plans,” said Glenn Lehrman, a spokesman for the Ebay-owned company. “The prices haven’t dropped very much, but I’d expect that to change Saturday and Sunday as people try to recoup at least what they paid.”
The average price remained “in the $3,500 to $3,600 range,” Lehrman said.
‘Once the Weather Clears’
Most customers of On Point Sports, a Houston-based sports- travel firm, had problem-free travel to the Dallas area, said John Leggett, a partner.
Some of his employees, hand-delivering tickets in Dallas today, were a different matter. Leggett said a crew abandoned an ice-crippled rental car on a Dallas-area freeway and were picked up by other workers nearby.
“All of our tickets we have in-hand so it’s just a matter of handing them to people once the weather clears,” Leggett said.
The Texas Department of Transportation dispatched 70 snowplows to the Dallas-Fort Worth area from elsewhere in the state, said Kelli Petras, an agency spokeswoman. Only four plows are usually stationed there, she said. About 600 Texas DOT workers are clearing roads or laying down a magnesium chloride de-icing compound or salt-sand mixture, she said.
“We’re hoping to have the major freeways and thoroughfares moving by later today or at least by tomorrow,” she said. “We need some help from the weather. When it gets this cold, everything just refreezes.”
‘One Big Arrival’
The Fairmont Dallas hotel, which reported no cancellations this morning, assigned extra employees to the front desk in anticipation of guests getting in behind schedule.
“We think we’ll have one big arrival, late,” said Erica Martinez, a hotel spokeswoman.
Lively said the snow and cold may keep Super Bowl travelers from visiting museums or hanging out outdoors at the ESPN set, without affecting the game itself.
“We’ll still have the largest head count and the largest ticket gate and the largest television audience,” he said. “The build-up is the part that’s been compromised.”
Ponzio International Travel clients on a charter plane bound for Love Field greeted a seven-hour delay with aplomb, and in some cases, a drink, said Dick Ponzio, owner of the Pittsburgh-based company.
“They all just went to the restaurants and bars” to wait for Love to reopen, he said. “Everybody understood. When the airport is closed, you can’t take off.”
Those passengers arrived amid familiar freezing temperatures and inches of snow.
“When we landed in Dallas this morning, it felt just like home,” Ponzio said.
American operated all its flights out of Chicago and Pittsburgh to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport this morning and expects to operate all scheduled flights from the airport starting at 2 p.m. local time, said Huguely, the spokeswoman.
Last week, the Fort Worth-based airline and its American Eagle commuter carrier added 12 flights from today through Feb. 7 between Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago, Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, and Pittsburgh. The carrier canceled 662 flights into and out of Dallas today.
Southwest earlier added two extra flights between Milwaukee and Dallas and two more between Pittsburgh and Dallas, scheduled for today, said Chris Mainz, a spokesman for the Dallas-based carrier.
“The operational goal is to get customers in for the Super Bowl,” said Whitney Eichinger, a Southwest spokeswoman. “We are watching the weather closely and are getting our operation up as quickly as we can.”
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