FILE – New York Jets first-round draft pick Zach Wilson (2) practices file photo during the NFL football rookie camp in Florham Park, NJ this Friday, May 7, 2021. Wilson, who was number 2 overall in April, is likely to become number 35 when the Jets begin the regular season in Carolina on September 12th. (Bill Kostroun, Associated Press)
PROVO – There are plenty of dates on the calendar for anyone following former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson’s rookie season with the New York Jets.
None is possibly bigger than the 2021 regular season opener on September 12th in Carolina – against former Cougar teammate and left tackle Brady Christensen and a quarterback named Sam Darnold, the USC product that replaced Wilson in the Big Apple.
Like many BYU (and Jets) fans, David Neeleman – the founder of JetBlue Airlines and Breeze Airways from Utah, who also happens to be Wilson’s maternal uncle – saw the full schedule, he wanted to be at the opener. There was just one problem: The Cougars played rival Utah – Neeleman’s alma mater – in Provo the night before – and there was no flight connecting Salt Lake International and Charlotte Douglas to see both games in full. Josh Wilson, Zach’s younger brother and aspiring linebacker in the Cougars’ sophomore year, will play a role in this game.
So what did the founder of several million dollar airlines do? He got creative. Using his connections with JetBlue, Neeleman put together a commercial charter flight that was due to depart Salt Lake International shortly after midnight on Saturday, September 11 and fly to Charlotte for the NFL game on Sunday – with around 4-5 hours left Tomorrow, just enough time for a nap in a hotel within walking distance of the stadium.
The trip costs between $ 599 and $ 799 per person, with group sizes ranging from one to four people. This includes travel to and from Charlotte, an overnight stay in a hotel and transport between the hotel and the airport. Seth Neeleman, David’s son, who is in charge of booking the itinerary, said tickets for both games are not included so that BYU season tickets can also join the trip – those who don’t have tickets for the BYU-Utah game need so that individuals and parties can sit where they want in Bank of America Stadium.
“We want people to be incentivized to travel with friends or in small groups, so going alone would be the most expensive option,” said the younger Neeleman, who recently completed a four-year lacrosse career at the University of Utah. “Getting a plane right now is really difficult with the new TSA regulations. But David used his connections with JetBlue to get a plane that would be manned by a JetBlue crew and everything they needed to do it.”
The weekend begins with the kick-off on Saturday between the Cougars and Utes – for whom “May the best team win,” joked Seth Neeleman. Guests are responsible for their own transportation to Salt Lake International around midnight, where they will pass through the TSA security checkpoint and to the main terminal.
Because of the size of the aircraft – a 200-passenger A-321 jet and not a smaller charter flight – the flight will operate through the commercial terminal, Neelman said. Traditional snacks and drinks are offered on board, as well as JetBlue’s personalized television service. Checked baggage is not allowed, but hand baggage is allowed.
After the four-hour drive – plus the two-hour clock change – guests arrive in Charlotte around 7 a.m., from where they take a bus to the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel, which is a 10-15 minute walk from Bank of America Stadium to get to the game.
After checking out (a locked conference room is available for storing personal items during the game), individuals and smaller groups can set off to the stadium at their own discretion. The kick-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST, when all guests are expected to cheer on either Wilson or the Jets, Neeleman joked.
A post-game bus will be available to get the group to the airport in time for a 6:00 p.m. EST flight that lands in Salt Lake City at around 8:30 p.m. MST
About half of the seats had been taken by Friday afternoon, Neeleman said. Tickets are non-refundable, but can be transferred to another person up to a week before boarding.
Registrations and a detailed itinerary are available at thewilsonweekend.com.