Commercial travel options for Nebraskans going to the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day were deteriorating Thursday.
Collegiate Athletics, a State College, Pa., company, canceled the Southwest Airlines charter on which Executive Travel of Lincoln, AAA Nebraska and Allied Tour & Travel of Norfolk were booking air travelers, Allied said.
Response was so low that Executive Travel canceled its bowl tour for the first time in 27 years that the Huskers have traveled to a bowl game.
Ground transportation arrangements and tickets were still available Thursday, but those wanting to fly to Jacksonville were on their own.
"With this cancellation, Husker fans will need to shop for the best air travel flights offered by commercial carriers," Rose White of AAA Nebraska said in an email. "When doing so, note the number of connections and the estimated flight time. Flight times vary dramatically from less than five hours to more than 14 hours."
The Huskers are scheduled to play the Georgia Bulldogs in the game on New Year's Day. It's a rematch of last year's CapitalOne Bowl.
Steve Glenn, CEO of Executive Travel, said low demand and high prices forced consolidation into the one charter flight and then that arrangement collapsed.
Air charters that used to cost $400 to $500 a ticket have escalated to $800 or $900, he said. "That model is starting to fall apart for a bowl trip," Glenn said.
"It would appear all the Pelini drama has disenfranchised a large number of people who followed the Huskers every year," Glenn, a former Husker player, said in an earlier email. "Despite the bad news I hope the Huskers play well and I so want them to win the game."
He said Monday some fans were disappointed Nebraska wasn't picked to play in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. That bowl game picked teams ahead of the Gator Bowl and chose a Michigan team that lost to Nebraska and had one fewer win.
Each school has a Gator Bowl ticket allotment of 12,750, about the same as for the CapitalOne Bowl last year. Nebraska sold about 4,000 tickets for that game and Georgia more than 10,000.
The Nebraska Alumni Association is selling a Gator Bowl tour that covers hotel, game ticket, ground transportation and activities. No air transportation will be provided for the first time since the 2007 Cotton Bowl because of the high cost, said Shannon Sherman, senior director for communications. As of Thursday afternoon, 42 travelers had joined the tour, she said.
AAA Travel in Nebraska is offering motorcoach tours through travel partner Allied Tour & Travel.
Glenn, a walk-on lineman for the Huskers who earned a scholarship in the 1970s, said the cancellation won't be a big loss to his business.
"From a business standpoint Husker trips have always been fun to do to support the fans, however they represent less than 1 percent of our sales even in the best years so this does not significantly affect our business," he said.
"Please don't think this is sour grapes. As a former Husker, I love Nebraska. I want the Huskers to win every game. Perhaps some fans just want this season to be over, with the hope we can start anew next year. Hope springs eternal."