Travel agencies swamped with requests for Final Four trips

jpatton1@herald-leader.comMarch 26, 2012 

  • Resources

    For details on packages:

    Avant Travel: (859) 233-0000

    Altour Sports Travel: 1-866-995-7444

    AAA Travel: 1-800-989-8900 or Providentvacation.com

Did you wake up Monday with a burning need to get to New Orleans this weekend for the Final Four? So did everybody else in Kentucky.

So much so that by mid-afternoon Monday, the American Airlines flight from Lexington to New Orleans was down to one seat, according to Travelocity, and it cost a whopping $3,241 to depart Friday, the day before the men's basketball semifinals, and return next Tuesday, the day after the championship game. Delta and United Airlines were sold out even at scalping prices.

The University of Kentucky is set to play the University of Louisville in the first semifinal game Saturday. It's the first time in decades that two teams from the same state have played in the Final Four.

AAA Travel in Lexington was inundated with requests and put together a charter, at $2,100 a person for airfare and hotel, plus an optional $380 for game tickets, spokesman Christopher Oakford said.

"It had 170 places and sold out within two hours," Oakford said Monday afternoon. "So we've got a second charter place to get people down there."

He said that one probably would be sold out by Monday evening, too.

Likewise Altour Sports Travel's charter, which began taking reservations last week.

Altour spokeswoman Susan Smith said some of the 127 spots were available Monday afternoon for her agency's four-night package (flights, hotel and tickets) for $2,895 but "very limited."

Smith said she had booked 20 to 25 seats Monday alone.

Some fans couldn't wait until Monday morning. Sharon Betts at Avant Travel said, "We had calls last night. We came in after the game." Avant had sold 25 packages Monday and still had seats on a charter flight for $795 a person and four nights in a hotel for $1,745 a room.

"It gets more tricky on the game tickets," Betts said. "We planned to offer tickets, but most people prefer to get their own."

If a flight is out of your price range, you can always drive.

It's about 1,400 miles round-trip, amounting to about $240 spent on gas, said AAA's Oakford.

There are few hotel rooms left, most released by fans of teams that didn't make the Final Four, he said, "but they're going very, very quickly."

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264: Twitter: @janetpattonhl.

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