More than 100 private jets are expected to fly into Indianapolis International Airport this weekend for NBA All-Star Game-related festivities.
The planes, carrying business executives, media, celebrities, professional athletes and others, will be among hundreds of aircraft set to land at the airport during the weekend, Indianapolis Airport Authority officials said.
The officials said they do not yet have an estimate for how many commercial flights will land at the airport and how many passengers those planes will carry. Unlike the Super Bowl in Indianapolis in 2012, the NBA event has not prompted airlines to add more flights or charters specifically for the event.
Even so, airport officials said they anticipate a busy weekend and are working closely with the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration and others to accommodate the increased traffic.
“We are prepared, and our team is well versed in managing additional air traffic at the Indy airport during major events,” officials said. “In preparation, we’ve been in communication and coordination with our business partners at the airport, including airlines, concessionaires, and rental car partners to ensure everyone is ready to meet the travel demand.”
The airport authority said while it is not privy to the specific schedules or manifests for the private flights, it expects the figure will ultimately exceed more than 100 flights, as additional private users finalize their plans. Most of those aircraft will rely on what are known as fixed-base operators, or FBOs, which handle general aviation traffic. Million Air and Signature are the two FBOs for the airport and are located away from the main terminal, allowing private travelers to avoid throngs of commercial flyers.
This year’s Super Bowl in Las Vegas saw about 1,100 private planes fly into southern Nevada airports.
Marc Ganis, owner of Chicago-based sports consultancy Sportscorp Ltd, said most professional athletes tend to fly on private jets when going to an event like the NBA All-Star Game. Leaders from the league’s sponsors and representatives of television networks also tend to travel to such events privately.
Up to 1,800 media members will travel to Indianapolis for the weekend, with most either driving or flying commercial.
Some flights are expected to land at reliever airports across central Indiana, such as Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport in Fishers or Indianapolis Regional Airport near Greenfield. The airport authority said it doesn’t know whether the Indianapolis Downtown Heliport will be heavily used during All-Star Weekend.
The Indianapolis Executive Airport in Zionsville, which is operated by the Hamilton County Airport Authority rather than IAA, said it does not expect to see an uptick in air traffic during the weekend.
Ganis said the biggest logistical challenges for Indianapolis will come Sunday night and the Monday after the All-Star Game. That’s because numerous private jets will likely depart the night of the event, following its conclusion, while passenger airliners will mostly leave Monday morning and into early afternoon.
“The corporate types—the ultra VIPs—they generally have to be somewhere on Monday morning,” said Ganis. “And the only way that these people can be back in their office Monday morning is if they leave Sunday night after the game.”
The Monday after Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 is the busiest day on record for commercial traffic at Indianapolis International Airport, when 30,000 people flew out from the city.
Private planes will be welcomed to Indianapolis in unique ways during All-Star Week (portions of Million Air’s and Signature’s spaces are adorned with All-Star promotional items) and the airport is going all-out for those taking commercial flights.
The terminal plaza features a full-size decorative basketball court highlighting All-Star Weekend and vinyl wraps have been installed on pillars in the baggage claim. There is also extensive signage throughout the concourses.
A 6-foot-tall fiberglass basketball is on display in the baggage claim. Hand-painted by local muralist Koda Witsken to celebrates Indiana’s role in the creation of federal Title IX legislation in 1972, the ball is one of 24 that can be found throughout Indianapolis as part of the host committee’s Hoosier Historia program.
The airport also plans to station volunteers at the airport to welcome visitors to the city and answer questions they have about navigating the terminal or getting to downtown for All-Star events. Likewise, welcome tables staffed by airport employees will be located in each concourse.
The airport will have several spots selling All-Star merchandise, including a pop-up shop in Civic Plaza, and a kiosk near the entrance to Concourse B, outside the Tumi store. Some All-Star merchandise will be sold in various newsstand and convenience areas, according to airport officials.
The airport said it expects to see an influx of travelers using ridesharing from Uber and Lyft to get to and from downtown.