To the average slob, events such the the Super Bowl or The Master's Tournament or the Baseball All-Star game, which takes place this week, are something to buy pizza and chips for and relax and enjoy. For corporate and charter flight crews, however, these are events that will always turn an otherwise uneventful trip into something that makes a stay in Stalag 13's "cooler" seem inviting. This is especially true when the screw scheduler sneers like Col. Klink and says "...and you get to... staaay."
Most people who have never had to crew a trip to one of these events tend to believe that the pilots and cabin crews get "the best" hotels and food- but nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, the front office normally does not know that the trip is coming until just before the big event when the customer's people contact them and say "...we need a jet to go to the All-Star game on Monday, stay and wait for our people who will probably want to come back as late as Wednesday." Then "screw scheduling" gets the fun task of scrambling to find rooms and every other accommodations for the crew somewhere near the the host city which by then has been totally sold out for the last six months.
Normally, the passengers want to be dropped as close to the event as possible at an airport that normally has zero places to overnight the aircraft. This leads to a drop and hop, where you deplane the cattle and zap out to some other airport where you can actually tie-down. That's normally followed by getting a car from a rental outfit that is also totally sold out of cars. The crew gets the choice of "whatever you can get" crams everyone in and then drives 50 to 100 miles to a motel off of an Interstate freeway exit ramp whose only restaurant promotes its dining excellence with a large sign that simply reads "EATS."
If, however, your front office is lucky enough to actually get a room for you "in town" you're not much better off than staying at the off-ramp inn. In town accommodations are amid a jumble of traffic jams, over crowded restaurants, over filled parking areas and packed bars busy making their customers too happy. The worst part being the fact that the flight crews have a very different sleep schedule from the happy people. In general, crews are asked to awaken at some rude hour of the morning (and I use that term "morning" lightly). Of course, the happy people will always pick your room to either have a huge party next door to, or your door to stand outside of and shout and laugh. Yet- on occasion- the pilot can get even with the happy drunks. My best example of this was back in 1998 during the Daytona 500. I needed to be up at 05:30 to be ready to go and we were roomed at what, when I worked there in the early 80s, was the Daytona Plaza Hotel. Of course it was a dump then, and when I stayed there as a pilot it was... better painted. My room had an adjoining room door, which I made sure was well secured, and a phone that had the old-style bell that can make your spine crawl with its shrill ring. At 02:20 in the "morning" the drunken race fan next door came back from getting too happy. The paper thin walls were enough to hear every bump, groan, cough and laugh as he stumbled around his room. Of course, this wasted idiot decided he needed to get into MY room and he opened his side of the adjoining door and began to beat on my side of the door. I knew well that my door's deadbolt would hold, because I once had helped the Daytona Police try and kick through one of them during Spring Break 1983. Still, the idiot beat, kicked and screamed at the door calling for someone named "Billy." Finally he groaned, stumbled and passed out somewhere in his room. A couple of hours later, when my alarm went off, the first thing I did was pick up the phone... and dial his room. Again, through the walls, I could hear every detail as the shrill ring began. Ring, ring, ring,... groan... loud groan, ring, ring, ring... stumble, crash, bump... "Hello?" I hung up. More groaning came from the room followed by a loud thump as the fan dumped himself back onto his bed. I called again. Ring, ring, ring... loud groan, loud shin busting thump, curse words... "HELLO!" I hung up. As the screams from next door echoed, I went and took my shower. Coming out of the shower I called again. More hung-over mayhem emanated from next door. While dressing, I called again. When I was ready to leave the room I called again. As we were checking out at the front desk, I excused myself and used the house phone to call two more times. Revenge was mine.
The worst gig of all, however, is the one where your customer wants to arrive just before the game and depart early the following morning... that sucks. Frankly, you're best off to sleep in the aircraft. No matter what FBO you're at, they simply cannot cope with the type of traffic that these events bring. Often crew tents are set up with food and drinks... for the people who got there early. Late arrivals are better off eating cheesy crackers out of the aircraft snack drawer. If screw scheduling has ordered boxed meals for you, the orders will either be lost, given to the wrong crew or otherwise screwed up. The toilets at the FBO will always exceed their maximum capacity and begin to overflow. Most FBO's have their bathrooms serviced by the line crew and they are, by this time, in no mood to handle mass toilet overflows. The FBO vending machines are either busted or empty as are the ATM machines and pan-handling on a nearby corner seems a good option at times. Local restaurants will be so jammed that telling you it is "A four hour wait for a table" is not uncommon- of course, you have to sit in a wooden bench and wait or you'll lose your place in line. All of that matters little, because eventually, everyone ends up crammed into the crew "lounge" looking at one another with that envy the dead gaze as an old copy of Water World plays on the VCR.
Then again... that's why we got into this business in the first place- it's all the glamour.