Holding national competitions in hub cities

We've heard from many parents living on the West coast that travel to national competitions can be both time-consuming and expensive.  Secondary cities in the mid-west and on the east coast, in particular can pose a challenge.  There are very few non-stop flights from either San Francisco or Los Angeles to these cities, forcing fencers to undertake flights of 7 hours or more each way, not including time spent on ground transportation.  This is especially hard during the school year when fencers have to juggle school work with tournament schedules.

For example, based on flight availability on expedia.com,  there are 2 non-stop flights (approximately 3.5 hours long) from Los Angeles to St Louis, MO and 76 flights with one stop (ranging from 5.5 hours to 8.5 hours long) .  There are 2 non-stop flights from San Francisco to St Louis (approximately 3.8 hours long) and 48 flights with one stop (ranging from 5 hours to 9 hours long). It looks a lot better if you live on the east coast.  From New York, there are 16 non-stop flights of about 3 hour duration and 64 flights with one stop ranging from 4.5 hours to 6.5 hours in duration.  Flights are about 25% cheaper from New York to St Louis, compared to flights from either San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Because of school schedules and parent work schedules, the flight options are ultimately quite narrow, and can involve an extra day of missed school and/or work.

The same calculation applies to cities like Cleveland, Milwaukee, Columbus, Memphis, Baltimore, Richmond, Virginia Beach and so on.

A comparison with Dallas, a hub city, shows that from Los Angeles, there are 27 non-stop flights of about 3 hour duration, and 50 flights ranging from 5.5 hours to 8.5 hours in duration.  These flights are approximately 40% cheaper than flights to St Louis.  From San Francisco to Dallas, there are 16 non-stop flights of about 3.5 hour duration, and 36 flights with one stop ranging from 5.5 hours to 8 hours in duration.  These flights too are bout 40% cheaper compared to flights to St Louis.  From New York, there are 37 non-stop flights to Dallas of about 3.8 hour duration and 42 flights with one stop ranging from 5.5 hours to 6.5 hours in duration.  Flights from New York to Dallas are about 10% to 20% cheaper than from the west coast.

These cost and time differentials in travel to secondary cities compared to hub cities add up to a substantial amount of money and time incurred by parents of fencers from both coasts, with a much bigger portion of costs being borne by west coast parents.  The number of fencers from the west coast has been growing rapidly, and California fencers alone represent about 25% of participants at national competitions.  As these numbers grow, the amount of money spent by families travelling to secondary cities will balloon. 

A rough calculation indicates that the cost differential for flights to St Louis versus Dallas as an example, is about $120 per traveller from California  Assuming that California fencers alone account for about 2000 participants (25%) at Summer Nationals, and each fencer travels with one parent or other person (so there 4,000 travellers), the total cost differential works out to $480,000 for Summer Nationals alone for California travellers (not including the coaches and referees).  For New York travellers who account for about 15% of participants, or 1,200 fencers (2,400 travellers) who pay a cost differential of $50 per traveller, this amounts to $120,000.  That's $600,000 in avoidable cost of travel if Summer Nationals were hosted in Dallas, a hub city instead of St Louis.  Regardless of where you live in the US, travel to and from a hub city will be cheaper than travel to a secondary city.

Presumably, for US Fencing, the cost of renting a convention center for 10 days is substantially less than the additional $600,000 spent by 40% of Summer Nationals participants to travel to St Louis, which is not a hub city compared to travel to Dallas.  

Surely some of this money spent on airlines can instead be charged as higher registration and event fees to defray the costs of convention center rental plus have leftover to cover costs like better referee training.

While the economics of secondary city convention center rental seem to work out very well for US Fencing, the economics are very poor for participants and their parents.  The arrangement wastes money that could otherwise be paid to US Fencing to undertake a variety of activities to benefit the fencing community rather than the airlines.

In the 2017/2018 fencing year, there were 2 national tournaments held on the west coast, 3 on the east coast, and 3 in the mid-west and mid-south.  Only 1 of them can be considered to be reasonably close (less than 1 hour drive) to a hub city, Anaheim (Los Angeles).  That's a lot of money paid to airlines and not to US Fencing.

Parents who bear the brunt of these costs would be very happy to find a better way to defray them.

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Donna Meyer