By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY
United Airlines has made a free-flight offer it hopes could prevent a big-time college football game from falling victim to the U.S. government shutdown.
The status of the Navy-Air Force game scheduled for this Saturday is in limbo, with many athletic events at the service academies suspended following the Congressional impasse that's led to the shutdown.
USA TODAY: Navy-Air Force game may fall victim to federal shutdown
The game is supposed to be played on the campus of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., in front of a sold-out crowd and national TV audience.
In an apparent effort to help the schools find a solution, United said via Twitter:
"We hate cancellations, so we're offering to fly @AF_Academy to this year's Air Force-Navy game. Retweet if you agree."
United confirmed to Today in the Sky that the offer is a serious one.
"At United, we love football, we love our troops and, of course, we love flying," United says in its statement to Today in the Sky. "We want to make sure fans of the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy get to see their teams out on the field Saturday."
"United is a strong supporter of our veterans and active-duty service men and women, with so many of our own co-workers having served," the statement adds. "And with our commitment to both Colorado and the D.C. area, we thought this was a great opportunity to keep the long-standing tradition alive."
If the offer pans out, it's likely United would offer a charter flight for the team to fly from Colorado Springs to Baltimore/Washington International. Those airports are about 25 miles from the Naval and Air Force academies, respectively.
United also has a significant presence in the local markets for each academy. The carrier has a large hub at Denver International, which is about 75 miles north of the Air Force Academy. Navy's campus is about 60 miles from Washington Dulles, another of United's big hubs.
Navy athletic officials have said they'd announce a decision on the status of the game by noon Thursday, though there's no word yet as to whether United's offer will help the game go off as scheduled.