The 2018 MLS season kicked off this weekend and New York City FC fans weren’t going to let a nor’easter rain on their season-opening parade. Dozens of NYCFC supporters made the trip out to Kansas City to cheer on the boys in blue but it wasn’t exactly easy getting there.
The 2,430 mile round-trip between Yankee Stadium and Children’s Mercy Park would place it among one of the longer away-trips in Europe. NYCFC supporters traveled further than the distance between the Etihad Stadium in Manchester and Barcelona’s Camp Nou.
The issues started on Friday when NYCFC was forced to fly a charter flight out of New York when most domestic flights were being canceled by airlines. MLS teams are only allowed to use four one-way charter flights per season, the league does make exceptions for weather emergencies. The New England Revolution’s charter flight to Philadelphia did not count towards their four flights. Fortunately for the Revolution, their owner Bob Kraft also owns the New England Patriots and just happens to have planes available for his team.
Major travel issues due to the storm but we’re leaving soon. Thanks to our friends across the hall for letting us use their ride! pic.twitter.com/B79bwiY4WH
— Brian Bilello (@RevsPrez) March 3, 2018
It is unknown at the time if MLS is considering NYCFC’s use of a charter flight as a “weather emergency” as they did not travel the day of their match as New England did. Requests for clarification from the league have gone unanswered as of the time of publication.
Kansas City or Bust
As NYCFC scrambled to make their own flight arrangements, their supporters were left stranded at area airports.
Neil G was one of those stranded supporters. Neil was scheduled to be on a 2:25pm flight from LaGuardia Airport to Kansas City International on Friday. Delta canceled his flight due to the storm at 10:00pm on Thursday. Fortunately for Neil, he was able to re-book an 8:00pm flight the next day. Unfortunately for Neil, when he woke up on Friday, he realized his 8:00pm flight was also cancelled.
With two flights now cancelled it seemed Neil was going to miss the 2018 NYCFC Season Opener but he was not going to let a little rain get him down and that’s when he went to work.
“I find a trip to Miami to Atlanta to KC, and that gets cancelled when I’m at the airport right after I print my boarding passes. The airport terminal becomes a mess as Delta cancels pretty much every single flight. They were giving me a bunch of bad layover options at the counter to get to MCI 10pm Saturday night.”
He was eventually put on a 5:48am Saturday flight from White Plains that was cancelled around 7:00pm that Friday. He was out of options with New York City based airports as thousands of other travelers scrambled to find flights.
At that point Neil did something other NYCFC fans refused to do last season, he traveled to Connecticut so he could see his team. “The best I could do was get a 6:30am flight out of Hartford (CT) with layovers in Cleveland and Detroit that got to KC at 1:30pm CT”
Fortunately for Neil, he lives in Connecticut, but the trip to Hartford is twice as long as the trip to LaGuardia from his house. At the end of that hellish day, he had been awake for nearly 24 hours. He ended up driving to Hartford at 4:00am but had his father drive the car back because his return flight was to LaGuardia.
Delta’s staff was very helpful and apologized to Neil for the weather caused delays. He was bumped up to First Class on his first flight to Cleveland and was upgraded again on his flight from Detroit to Kansas City.
Nearly 24 hour after he was first supposed to land in Kansas City, Neil arrived and made it to the stadium to watch NYCFC play. “I wasn’t going to miss this” he said, adding that he would make the trip again if he had to.
Kansas, through Michigan
The fan known as “NYCFC Spider Man” ended up taking a similar route as Neil. ‘Spiderman’ was scheduled for a 9:20pm Saturday flight from LaGuardia which was canceled Friday morning. He too was switched to the 5:48am Saturday flight from White Plains airport that Neil was, which wasn’t canceled until 7:00pm Friday. Because he wasn’t traveling alone he wasn’t able to get a seat by himself and was being issued Monday flights.
He did his best to get a hold of customer service for his airlines to try to get a refund at that point since he had no intention of going to Kansas City after the match. After falling asleep on hold waiting for a customer service representative a voice finally woke him up around 4:00am. By that point he had decided to get to Kansas.
“Ultimately a strong win would really make this worth the hassle and frustration” he said of his travel nightmare.
Despite living near JFK Airport in Queens, he spent the night in the Bronx just in case he and his friends managed to get a flight together out of White Plains. He ended up getting back to JFK for a 1:00pm flight to Cleveland, with a second leg to Detroit and a final leg to Kansas City, arriving in Kansas at 9:30pm.
He added that he loves going on ‘away days’ in general. “Some very awesome experiences and this one being a season opener, we have to come out big regardless [of] these unfortunate circumstances.”
“I think for the players and staff that appreciate these kinds of efforts, it lets them know we’re with them through thick and thin.”
He never let the situation get the best of him and managed to keep his wits, and sense of humor with him despite the chaos.
— Kaine Parker (@NYCFCSpiderMan) March 3, 2018
Supporters In Kansas
“My story isn’t that terrible” said Jonathan Densa, who tried not to focus on the issues he had traveling. His Friday direct flight was also canceled and he ended up re-booking on a flight through Atlanta the following day.
He and several other supporters made it to the KC Cauldron tailgate before the match and were welcomed with open arms. He and fellow NYCFC supporters had some BBQ before the match at Q39, which was “a life changing experience” for Densa, lamenting that BBQ wouldn’t be the same for him anymore.
NYCFC supporters did bring their own meat products and shared some salami from Katz’s Deli with the Kansas City supporters.
— The Third Rail (@ThirdRailSC) March 4, 2018
“We walked into Children’s Mercy Park and the home fans were receptive towards us and some even clapped along” said Densa of the atmosphere in Kansas. A far cry for the hostile environments of Europe where a Spanish police officer died last week after a clash with Russian soccer fans.
This level of dedication to a team that only came into existence a few years ago shows the speed at which NYCFC has become a daily part of the lives of many in the city. From NYCFC’s City In The Community program to the club building fields in conjunction with US Soccer and the Mayors office, the team has done well to weave itself into the fabric of the local community.
With the home opener rapidly approaching, New York City fans are charged up and anxiously waiting for kickoff at Yankee Stadium. Until then they’ll make sure to make noise and support the team everywhere they go.