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Ambassadair travel club scores on Colts' success

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The Indianapolis Colts’ second trip to the Super Bowl is scoring business for the Indianapolis-based Ambassadair travel club.

A Feb. 5-8 trip aboard a chartered Boeing 737 is about 80 percent sold, said Michael Grueninger, CEO of Grueninger Travel Group, which bought Ambassadair in 2005 from ATA Airlines.

The Ambassadair trip includes lodging at the Marco Beach Marriott Resort and transportation to Miami.  Ambassadair is charging an eye-popping $3,999 per person, although that includes a ticket to the game (it’s $2,149 without the ticket). A travel director flies with the group.

In 2007 Ambassadiair filled a 248-seat Boeing 757 with Super Bowl-bound Colts fans.  A tight economy is probably tempering demand a bit this year, although Gruenginer said he expects to fill up the 172-seat Boeing 737 bound for Fort Myers. “We knew with this economy it would probably be a smaller-sized group.”

Grueninger’s team has been piecing together the package for weeks, able to strike better deals on the west coast of Florida to avoid the crush in the Miami area. It’s about a two-hour ride to Miami to the game.

Ambassadair is the lone surviving entity of the former ATA Airlines, which folded in 2008 after losing a major military charter contract.  Grueninger snapped up the firm in 2005, shortly after ATA’s first bankruptcy filing.  The club has a mailing list of about 55,000 people versus about 20,000 when Grueninger acquired the club. Ambassadair has 36 full-time employees.

Grueninger Travel Group has several divisions specializing in areas such as corporate incentive trips, student performing groups and tours for associations.

With the loss of ATA, which provided many of the charter flights, much of the travel is booked aboard commercial flights except for special events such as the Super Bowl.

Additional charters may be put in place as the economy improves and passengers are willing to pay more for renting a plane, Grueninger said. Ambassadair is also responding to the downturn by offering more shorter-duration, less-costly travel packages of the three- to four-day variety.

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