When IRONMAN updated the design of their website in 2019 they added a little feature on the individual race pages which listed the nearest airport. Today we’re going to look into the absurdity of flying into some their suggested airports. Now please do keep in mind I fly out of Atlanta, one of the largest and busiest airports in the world, and you probably don’t. Hartsfield-Jackson is a hub for Delta and Southwest, which means I can get direct flights to a lot of places, so if I can’t get to the race location without a layover in the US it’s probably in Bum Fuck Egypt.
First up on the list is the worst of all, Lake Placid, where you fly into Plattsburgh International Airport (PBG). I assume they can call themselves an international airport because there’s probably a flight from Montreal or Toronto. In reality this place is closer to where Billy Bob lands his crop duster. To get to PBG from ATL you have to fly Spirit or United (go ahead and look up what it costs to fly a bike on Spirit and you’ll think twice). For Spirit you have a layover in Fort Lauderdale, which results in a seven and a half hour trip. United has a short layover in D.C. and only takes a total of four and a half hours. That’s not bad, but you know what sounds better? A two and a half hour direct flight to Burlington, Vermont, which is only 40 miles from Lake Placid, and has an inexpensive baggage fee for my bike (I also get a free checked bag on Delta for having a Sky Miles Amex).
Next up on the docket we have Santa Rosa (STS). Yeah, I know 2020 is the last year for the full, but I assume the 70.3 will be here to stay (maybe?). This trip is at best seven hours long and at worst 11 hours because of the layover at San Francisco (SFO). Santa Rosa is only 67 miles away by car, I could just hop a direct flight to SFO on a number of carriers. It’s a five and a half hour flight out and four and a half hour flight back (because of tailwinds). Hell I could even hop on Southwest and fly into Oakland for pretty cheap too. It’s the same amount of flight time and only a 60-mile drive Santa Rosa.
Chattanooga and Augusta are much cheaper if you fly into Atlanta, and because Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) is a major airport and tons of cities have direct flights here. It’s a little over two hours to drive to Augusta from ATL and a little less than two hours to Chattanooga. There is a company that has a shuttle from Atlanta to Chattanooga a few times a day (the same company also runs a shuttle from Nashville to Chattanooga). They really do run it frequently, I see one every time I have to go to Chattanooga or Nashville.
For Steelhead 70.3 (in Benton Harbor, Michigan) IRONMAN lists South Bend, Indiana (SBN), as the nearest airport. For me it’s actually possible to get a direct flight there on Delta, but there’s a better way. It’s a 45-minute drive from South Bend to the race site, which isn’t bad but it’s only a one hour and 45-minute drive from Chicago Midway (MDW) and two and a half hour drive from Detroit International (DTT). If I fly into MDW it’s a quarter of the price as a direct flight to South Bend on Delta (Southwest also flies into MDW), and it was even $20 cheaper to fly into DTT.
Okay, let’s address the whole region of New England. Based on what I know about geography you could stick that fossil Tom Brady on a runway at Logan International and he could hit anywhere in New England with a football — it just looks so compact and close together. For Maine 70.3 I can fly into Portland on Delta direct and drive 25 minutes to Orchard Beach, or I could fly direct into Logan for a fraction of the price and drive an hour and a half.
Our airport last example today is St. George, Utah. Amazingly enough the city does have an airport and major airlines service it via a partnership with Sky West. You just get a layover in Denver, Salt Lake City or Dallas and it makes for about a six hour trip. The alternative is taking a direct flight to Vegas on Southwest or Delta for about a third of the price and driving the two hours to St. George.
As you can see IRONMAN’s nearest airport doesn’t always make sense financially and/or timewise, unless you’re a pro and can list it as a business expense on your taxes.