PROVO — There are plenty of dates to circle on the calendar for anyone following former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson's rookie season with the New York Jets.
None may be bigger than the 2021 regular season opener Sept. 12 at Carolina — against former Cougar teammate and left tackle Brady Christensen, and a quarterback named Sam Darnold, the USC product who Wilson replaced in the Big Apple.
Like a lot of BYU (and Jets) fans, David Neeleman — the founder of JetBlue Airlines and Utah-based Breeze Airways who also happens to be Wilson's uncle through his mother's side — saw the full schedule, he wanted to be at the opener. There was only one problem: the Cougars play rival Utah — Neeleman's alma mater — the night before in Provo, and there was no flight that would connect Salt Lake International and Charlotte Douglas that would allow him to see both games in full. Set to feature in that game is Josh Wilson, Zach's younger brother and rising sophomore linebacker for the Cougars.
So what did the founder of several multi-million dollar airways do? He got creative. Using his connections with JetBlue, Neeleman put together a commercial flight by charter, one that would depart from Salt Lake International shortly after midnight Saturday, Sept. 11 and fly to Charlotte for Sunday's NFL game — with about 4-5 hours to spare in the morning, just enough time for a light nap at a hotel within walking distance of the stadium.
The trip costs between $599 and $799 per person, with party sizes ranging from one to four people. That includes travel to and from Charlotte, one night's stay in the hotel, and transportation between the hotel and airport. Seth Neeleman, David's son who is in charge of booking the itinerary, said tickets to both games aren't included to allow for BYU season tickets to join the trip — those who don't need tickets to the BYU-Utah game — as well as to allow individuals and parties to sit where they prefer at Bank of America Stadium.
"We want to incentivize people to go with friends or in small groups, so going alone would be the most expensive," said the younger Neeleman, who recently wrapped up a four-year lacrosse career at the University of Utah. "Getting a plane right now is really difficult with new TSA regulations. But David used his connections with JetBlue to get a plane, which will be staffed by a JetBlue crew and everything they needed to make it happen."
The weekend will start with Saturday's kickoff between the Cougars and Utes — for which "may the best team win," Seth Neeleman quipped. Guests are responsible for their own transportation to Salt Lake International around midnight, where they will proceed through the main TSA security checkpoint and head to the main terminal.
Because of the size of the plane — an A-321, 200-passenger jet rather than a smaller charter flight — the flight will operate through the commercial terminal, Neelman said. Traditional snacks and in-flight drinks will be available, as well as JetBlue's individual television service. No checked baggage will be allowed, but carry-on luggage is permitted.
After the four-hour trip — plus the two-hour time change — guests will arrive in Charlotte around 7 a.m., where they will take a bus to the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel, located within a 10-15 minute walk of Bank of America Stadium prior to the game.
After checking out (a locked conference room will be available to store personal belongings during the game), individuals and smaller groups are free to depart for the stadium on their own time. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST, when all guests will be expected to cheer for either Wilson or the Jets, Neeleman joked.
Following the game, a bus will be available to take the group back to the airport in time for a 6 p.m. EST flight, which will land in Salt Lake City around 8:30 p.m. MST.
About half of the spots have been claimed as of Friday afternoon, Neeleman said. Tickets are nonrefundable, but may be transferred to another person before a week prior to boarding.
Signups and a detailed itenerary are available at thewilsonweekend.com.