Unexpected hub: Buffalo airport plays key role in pro sports transportation | Local News

Unexpected hub: Buffalo airport plays key role in pro sports transportation |  Local News

It sounds like a sports fantasy: a chance to see the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Maple Leafs in Buffalo on the same day.

But the occasion had little to do with sports.

The Yankees and Blue Jays followed Toronto’s 2-1 win in Major League Baseball by busing to Buffalo Niagara International Airport to depart after midnight for their next US destinations, while the Maple Leafs were scheduled to drive to Buffalo Thursday afternoon for a flight to Tampa Bay to continue their NHL Playoffs first-round series.

These three professional sports teams were the most recent to choose the travel path that presents the least risk in regard to Covid-19, avoiding the need to present a negative pre-flight Covid-19 test at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

The Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics and Philadelphia 76ers were other teams reported by media outlets to have driven from Toronto to Buffalo as a strategic, two-hour detour.

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For any international flight bound for the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires a negative Covid-19 test result from no more than one day before traveling, or proof of recovery from Covid-19 in the last 90 days. To cross the border from Canada to the United States by land, a negative Covid-19 test result is not required.

While Lee Weitz, director of aviation for the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, had not noticed any influx of professional teams, he contacted Brian Evaldi, general manager for TAC Air-BUF, the fixed-base operator that handles charter flights in and out of Buffalo , to further investigate. Evaldi confirmed the recent increase, which proved a pleasant surprise for Weitz.

“When a plane flies to Buffalo to pick up those teams, that’s additional revenue for us,” Weitz said.

Weitz estimated the airport receives about $1,200 per arriving plane, so the trio of pro sports teams choosing Buffalo produced a cool – and unexpected – $3,600 in a 24-hour span. He clarified these teams included Buffalo as part of their short-term travel itinerary and did not suddenly spring their arrival on airport officials.


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Even a false positive Covid-19 test could disrupt a team’s travel schedule and perhaps even affect its performance. If a player were unable to provide a negative test at the Pearson International Airport, they would essentially be left behind until a positive test could be produced. The Maple Leafs could ill afford to leave Auston Matthews behind in Canada, in the same way the Blue Jays would be loathe to lose Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for any amount of time.

Evaldi and Weitz confirmed the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Maple Leafs’ postseason foe, opted to use the Pearson airport for their return to Florida. Although a slightly different scenario, the Buffalo Sabers were forced in February to drive from Montreal to Plattsburgh for a flight to St. Louis, The News’ Lance Lysowski reported. Buffalo’s Covid-19 tests taken to enter the United States following a game against the Canadians had expired beyond their 24-hour limit due to a delay caused by changing airports due to a noise ordinance and mechanical failure, further complicating an already chaotic trip.







Lightning Maple Leafs Hockey

Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) celebrates his goal as Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin (8) looks on during the third period of Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Toronto.


Frank Gunn/Canadian Press


Traffic in the other direction – from the United States to Canada – does not require these travel gymnastics. Regardless if traveling by land or air, US citizens must be fully vaccinated to cross the border, and a recent negative Covid test is not required.

The New York Daily News reported the Yankees were able to send their full roster to Toronto for the series against the Blue Jays, newsworthy because the team’s manager Aaron Boone could not say two weeks ago that would be a certainty.

Weitz said that Buffalo airport has been attractive this week to other Canadian travelers, even those not swinging sticks for money. He’s heard reports that delays at Pearson – reaching two to three hours due to screenings, an increase in travelers and a staff shortage – have made Buffalo more attractive.

“We advertise in Southern Ontario about the convenience of using the Buffalo airport,” Weitz said, citing less congestion at the Cheektowaga site.

Ben Tsujimoto can be reached at btsujimoto@buffnews.comat (716) 849-6927 or on Twitter at @Tsuj10.

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