Do NFL Quarterbacks Ride in Economy Class When Flying?

by Eric

NFL fans have had a field day (pun not intended) since news broke (pun intended) yesterday of New York Jets linebacker IK Enemkpali punching quarterback Geno Smith.  This was devastating news to Jets fans, who lost their starting quarterback for 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw, and source of amusement for fans of other NFL teams who have ridiculed the team for their lack of recent success.

IK Enemkpali and Geno Smith


However, for BoardingArea readers, our interests do not lie in whether Ryan Fitzpatrick will be a decent replacement (he won’t be).  Rather, as soon as I learned that the fight between IK and Geno was over a $600 debt that Geno allegedly owed IK for “airfare/limo service” to attend a football event that IK was organizing,  I immediately whether $600 covered the level of luxurious travel that many of us might assume NFL athletes to partake in.

The Alleged Cause of the Argument


For a quarterback drafted in the second round of the NFL draft, Geno Smith is handsomely paid for his services.  He signed a 4-year, 5 million dollar contract in 2013, and has a salary this year of $861,328.  Filing as a single taxpayer, Geno’s 2015 salary would put him in the 99.9% percentile in the United States.  With this type of income, there’s no way that NFL quarterbacks ride in economy class when flying… right?

Geno Smith’s Income Percentile


Doing a little online research, I uncovered the event location: Pflugerville High School, on the outskirts of Austin, Texas.

IK Enemkpali Football Event Ad


Geno Smith’s reason for not being able to attend the event was because his brother was in a motorcycle accident in Miami, Florida.

Why Geno Did Not Attend


So I did the math.  Let’s assume Geno chose to take Uber in both Miami and Austin as he would have access to their more upscale uberSELECT option in both cities.  Estimated fares between South Beach and Miami International Airport are $43-57, and between $86-114 to get from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to Pflugerville High School.  On the high end, this totals $171.  Multiplied by 2 (roundtrip), this equals $342, leaving us with $258 remaining to cover his airfare.

Uber Fare Estimates



This is what we know and may be able to assume:

  • The event took place on a Saturday in the summer.
  • He likely flew in Friday as the events started early on Saturday, and probably flew out Sunday after the event was over.
  • He probably flew direct to reduce travel time.

Let’s assume that Geno and IK communicated better in the past than they do now, and booked their tickets 2 weeks in advance.  The only commercial airline that flies direct from Miami to Austin is American Airlines/US Airways.  Looking into the end of August, we see that the cheapest cost of a roundtrip flight between Miami and Austin using only direct flights cost $234.  Almost precisely what is left after factoring in the cost of the rides to/from the airport!

Sample Airfare Costs for a Miami-Austin Roundtrip With Direct Flights


This isn’t even Economy Plus/Main Cabin Extra!  And if Geno doesn’t have American Airlines status, then he has to pay for his own checked bags!  So despite the fact that we all imagine that star athletes fly private jets all around the world, and sip thousand dollar bottles of champagne, it seems like Geno was relegated to coach on this journey, and might have even been limited to carry-on only!

Not All Celebrities Ride in Private Jets With Tom Brady’s Super Bowl Rings


Seeing that an NFL quarterback (for the Jets, no less!) likely planned on traveling in coach reminded me of a nifty little thread on FlyerTalk which documents celebrity sightings on American Airlines.  Too bad no one was able to write “I saw Geno Smith, Economy Class – July 10” in the thread!

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Jacob August 12, 2015 - 7:00 pm

When I was a flight attendant for Republic Airlines, Redskins RB Alfred Morris and his girlfriend sat in the last row on our flight on an E175 from DCA-HSV

Eric August 12, 2015 - 7:28 pm


Was that by choice? I can’t imagine choosing that seat for myself, much less for a 225 lb beast of an athlete.

Kurt August 12, 2015 - 10:18 pm

Saw Drew Brees riding in coach a few years ago from San Diego to Houston in the off season, and nobody seemed to recognize him.

Eric August 13, 2015 - 6:48 am


In 2014, Drew Brees was apparently the 10th most recognizable NFL player.

Without the helmet, I guess not so much.

Left Handed Passenger August 13, 2015 - 12:40 am

Back in the 20th century, Joe Montana was on my Delta red-eye SFO-ATL, he was in economy class with the rest of us.

Fast forward to 2015, Colin Kaepernick is on my American SFO-ORD flight, and he’s in first class.

Times change?

Eric August 13, 2015 - 6:49 am

Left Handed Passenger-

This link might help to explain that.

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[…] there have been recent incidents in the NFL that relate to one teammate owing another some money, I wonder if Mike consoled with the fact that […]


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