East Carolina University joined the upstart American Athletic Conference three years ago, part of a frenzied league realignment across college sports. The Greenville, North Carolina, school was prepared for road games as far west as Dallas and as far north as Connecticut -- the Pirates, like most big-time athletic departments, regularly charter jets for their football and basketball teams.
Until now. Facing high travel demand, airlines are cutting back on the number of planes and crews available to charter, leaving colleges and some pro sports leagues scrambling. Jennifer Bulla, who manages travel for Ohio State, spent “a sleepless week” after United Airlines canceled its agreement to fly the Buckeyes in 2017 and 2018. (It has since reconsidered.) Other teams are taking the bus to places they once flew.