While I always look forward to contributing to Celebrated Living’s issue devoted to the sporting life, the occasion is bittersweet this year, because I am writing this mere hours after my beloved alma mater, the University of Texas, fell just short of college football’s national championship. Still, I am proud of my Longhorns’ great season, and, as I watched on TV, I was glad to see the many thousands of UT fans who made the trip (presumably on American Airlines) to California for the final game. To me, it underscored how air travel and a love of sports can go hand in hand. The American Airlines network, with 250 destinations in 40 countries, makes it easy to follow your favorite team up close and in person — or even better, to expand your sporting horizons in an exciting new part of the world.
A major magazine recently rated the top sports cities in the United States, and I was glad to see that AA’s five biggest domestic markets, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Miami, New York, and Los Angeles, all ranked in the top 10. But I hope you won’t confine your sporting adventures to the U.S. In fact, this spring AA is launching a number of new international services, each of which creates interesting opportunities for sports enthusiasts.
At New York JFK, home of our spectacular new terminal, we are introducing new nonstop service to San Jose, Costa Rica; Manchester, England; and Madrid, Spain. Imagine watching the New York Mets or Yankees on Thursday, then spending the weekend white-water rafting or scuba diving in Costa Rica. Our new service to Manchester and Madrid makes it easy to discover how Americans’ passion for our version of football stacks up to the European model. In Manchester, there is the Manchester United Football Club. Winner of the last three English League championships, the club dates back to 1878 and is estimated to be the most valuable team in any sport in the world. In Madrid, head to the 80,000-plus-capacity Santiago Bernabéu Stadium to see Real Madrid Club de Fútbol in action. Known worldwide as Real Madrid (“real” being the Spanish word for royal), it is the most famous and winningest team in Spanish football, having won more than 30 league titles.
At Chicago O’Hare, we’re launching new service to Calgary, Alberta; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Beijing, China. You probably know Calgary as a hockey town and outdoor sports mecca, with its great proximity to the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park. It is also one of the world’s great rodeo towns. The area surrounding Vancouver is likewise an outdoorsman’s paradise, but one of my favorite things about Vancouver is Stanley Park, a beautiful urban park bordering downtown. Bigger than New York’s Central Park, Stanley Park has a five-and-a-half-mile seawall path that attracts millions of joggers, cyclists, and walkers each year, while hiking through the park’s vast interior forest makes you forget you’re still in the city.
When you think of Beijing and sports, I’m guessing the first thing that comes to mind is the 2008 Olympics. But let me close by highlighting a Chinese sporting tradition that dates back a bit farther: kite flying. People have been flying kites in China for more than 2,000 years. In centuries past, colorful and elaborate kites were used to intimidate enemy armies. Today, millions of Chinese enjoy the pastime peacefully, in Beijing’s many parks, and indeed throughout the country. It’s hard to think of a more fun or relaxing way to immerse yourself in a new culture than by flying a kite.
To borrow a phrase, there is a wide world of sports out there to discover, and of course, American Airlines is here to help. Thanks for including us in your plans, and wherever you are going today, have a wonderful trip.
Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman and CEO American Airlines