As owner and publisher of Hawkeyenation.com, I have chartered planes and bowl packages for the past two years to Iowa's games at the Orange Bowl in Miami and the Outback Bowl in Tampa.
For Iowa's appearance in the 2003 Orange Bowl, I used a ‘local' company and we sold out the charter in a matter of days.
On the whole, things went well.
For Iowa's 2004 Outback Bowl appearance, I used Premiere Sports Travel, a company that The Insiders network teamed up with as its travel partner.
At first, I was leery in using them, as I had no experience with them and I had a solid experience the year before with the company I had used.
I spoke at length with one of the owners of Premiere, Brian Wilder, and he and I were feeling each other out on just what each of us wanted out of a potential trip.
In the end, and after considering other options, I chose to go with Premiere as I trusted The Insiders judgment in using them and Wilder certainly said all of the right things.
It did not take me very long to realize that not only did Wilder and Premiere talk a good game, but they also delivered in spades.
I am very blessed to be associated with Iowa Hawkeye fans, as they have the reputation for traveling to bowl games en mass, even if the nation does not know about that.
50,000 Iowa fans flooded the Miami metro area for the Orange Bowl and 20,000+ Iowa fans were in Tampa for the Outback Bowl in back to back years.
The Hawkeyenation.com charter to the Outback Bowl once again sold out in a matter of days, so we did our part. It was all on the shoulders of Premiere to deliver what they promised.
As my wife and I were making our way to the airport the day before the plane was to depart for Tampa, I received a call from Wilder. He told me that he and a Premiere employee had just scouted out the airport and had spoken with airport representatives to make sure that they had their logistical plan in place. I was very impressed with that.
Wilder also told me that he and his associates would be at the airport at 6:00am the morning we were to depart, a good four and a half hours before our flight was scheduled to leave.
Wilder told me that he and his company like to be the first people at the airport and the last people to get on the bus departing the game. I really liked that, as it speaks well of a commitment to customer service, something that Hawkeyenation.com takes a lot of pride in as well.
My wife and I arrived at Des Moines International at 7:30am and the Premiere team was on the scene and directing the Iowa fans that were on our charter to the appropriate check in counter.
The line moved quickly and no one complained about not being able to find the location.
The plane was on time and the Premiere folks were greeting us once again just prior to walking down the jet way, another nice touch.
After a smooth flight, we touched down in Tampa on time and we exited the aircraft and boarded our busses. Premiere had assigned each passenger a number for one of the four busses.
The reason for this was a great touch of customer service that was unexpected, yet very much appreciated.
Upon getting on to our assigned bus, the folks at Premiere had already arranged for each passenger's room key to be given to them before arriving at the hotel.
This saved everyone a lot of time at the check in counter and probably added another hour to each passenger's trip.
The one thing I noticed from the folks at Premiere was their attention to the small details. Those impressions are the ones that last.
The busses to Iowa's pep rally were on time, the busses to the game were on time and the trip out of the stadium on those busses went off without a hitch. The tickets had arrived in an itinerary package two weeks prior to the game, so there was no scrambling the day of the event.
The morning of our departure, the busses were on time and we made it to the airport just fine.
Representatives from Premiere were once again near our check in location to ensure that everything went according to plan.
Again, the flight home went off without a hitch.
During our time in Tampa, several representatives from Premiere were on site at our hotel to help answer any questions and to take care of any problems that came up.
If there were any problems, I did not hear about them.
I cannot imagine how this trip could have been any better, and Hawkeyenation.com's partnership with Premiere Sports Travel will most certainly last well into the future.
I would like to thank the folks at Premiere for taking care of the more than 200 Iowa fans that took part in this trip.