FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Becoming the first NFL team to purchase airplanes for travel to road games, the New England Patriots believe that one of the primary benefits is to players' physical health.
"Football is a different animal than the other sports in terms of what needs to start to happen on an airplane as you're leaving a game," team president Jonathan Kraft said Thursday in a pregame interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub. "I do think it will allow us better recovery with the players, the way we've set it up and allow the coaches to be more productive, too."
The purchase of two 767s, which were refurbished with all first-class seats (some of which recline completely), was first reported by ESPN's Darren Rovell.
The club later tweeted out a picture, having some fun by calling them "airkrafts."
New airkrafts. pic.twitter.com/Af2gI3G0vQ— New England Patriots (@Patriots) August 9, 2017
Kraft explained the team's thinking in Thursday's interview, noting how the business of charter flights with commercial airlines has been changing in recent years. Specifically, Kraft said that the Patriots believe that wide-body planes are imperative for the team's travel -- in part because of the high volume of people and equipment -- but options were becoming more limited.
"Domestic carriers have started to slowly get out of the wide-body business," Kraft said in the interview. "Their international routes, they still have it. We realize if we didn't want to end up one day in a position where we had to fly two planes to a game that we needed to take our destiny into our own hands. We started to investigate the different options to having wide bodies.
"It turns out, as a lot of these domestic carriers are getting rid of the domestic wide bodies, they are sort of decommissioning them. We looked at what it would take to take a couple of those planes that still had literally tens of thousands of hours left -- and in a way, bring them in, refurbish them and also configure the inside in a way that would be more conducive for a football team."
Kraft also detailed why the Patriots purchased two 767s.
"Every hour of the season, from Week 1 to whenever your season is done, is scripted out. Bill [Belichick] can tell you what's going on, and hours matters. If you have a technical difficulty with your plane and you're flying with any of the commercial carriers, they'll have another plane there pretty quick. If you're flying your own plane and you have one, you have to wait until it's fixed," he said in the radio interview.
"We'll fly with technicians and engineers, but having a backup plane in case that happens, and ready to scramble at any moment, was critical. For us, it was the way to do it in a fashion that would ensure the football team would not only have the right type of plane to fly on, but the right type of service so we could maximize time."