18 College Students Chipped In To Buy One Airline Ticket In The Ultimate Chick-Fil-A Run

Students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York all chipped in to buy an airline ticket they didn’t intend to use, just so one member of the group could get past security at the Albany airport. The group decided they all wanted Chick-fil-A but outside of the airport location the nearest one was an hour and a half’s drive away.

Instead of making a three hour roundtrip, 18 members of the school’s cross country and track and field teams chipped in $5.50 apiece for a $98 one-way from Albany to Fort Lauderdale, the cheapest fare they could find at the last minute. They sent team captain Vincent Putrino to the airport.

He then proceeded to make his way through TSA security to purchase food for 18 guys including himself with no intent to actually board the flight.

After it was all said and done, Putrino victoriously walked out of the airport, food in hand, which included 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches, 15 large fries, 156 nuggets, a bag of cookies, and a lemonade. The total cost of the food order came out to be $227.28.

Eight things strike me about ‘the ultimate Chick-fil-A run’:

  1. Is it any surprise that the one hurdle standing between these students and the Chick-fil-A they wanted was the TSA?

  2. The people have spoken and airports shouldn’t restrict access to Chick-fil-A on the basis on their political beliefs.

  3. All airports need programs like Pittsburgh’s and Seattle’s where passengers can register to go through security without same day travel.

  4. Going through security without intention to fly, with a non-refundable ticket, is just as problematic as going through with a refundable one. These students would have been better off buying something refundable, this isn’t Singapore where it can get you arrested (of course for U.S. domestic travel you aren’t also clearing departure immigration).

  5. I’m grateful that Flyrite chicken sandwiches exist outside of the Austin airport.

  6. Is there an underexploited opportunity for Uber Eats, Door Dash and competitors to get into the airport food delivery business?

  7. Why does this remind me of the famous (and somewhat apocryphal) Larry King Carvel story where he, Sandy Koufax, and two other friends drove from Brooklyn to New Haven, Connecticut to settle a bet on whether there was actually a Carvel there that sold 3 scoops of ice cream for 15 cents?

  8. Or is it more like Woody Allen in Bananas ordering food at a local deli for the entire revolutionary army?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Brings back memories of my time in college up north, having grown up in the south. This was before Chick-Fil-A had done more than selected expansion outside of the south, so it didn’t really exist north of Virginia except for a few spots.

    During flights to/from home I’d connect in PHL on US, so the Terminal B/C location was either the last chance for months (if headed north) or the first in months (if headed south) to get CFA, and I’d ravenously descend upon it. And avoided Sunday flights too!

  2. Just get a WN ticket on points. Cancel online 10+ minutes before boarding. No fee, no encumbrance. Just do not do it very often.

    Sounds like a business idea to me.

  3. That’s my home airport. We are starved for Chic fil a here in northern NY and you know, desperate times…. Still, they should have bought a refundable ticket 🙂

  4. Seriously?

    “2. The people have spoken and airports shouldn’t restrict access to Chick-fil-A on the basis on their political beliefs.”


    Please clarify how you reached the conclusion this CFA run was being done as a political statement by ‘the people’?

    You have a wonderfully lighthearted story, which the act written about might be considered a rather clever college prank, if examined under even the worst of light — why did you feel so compelled inject political commentary into an apolitical story?

  5. @Mike (A dissapointed long-time reader) – I’m a long-time supporter of marriage equality, back when Obama and Hillary Clinton were against it, in the early 2000s I hosted debates on the topic in DC where Andrew Sullivan was featured. I worked hard to give the idea a platform.

    My point here was a lighthearted one – at least there was the airport Chick-fil-A!

    But in the U.S. nearly all commercial airports are owned and operated by government or quasi-government bodies. As a result the first amendment applies. It’s impermissible to make contracting decisions on the basis of political or religious beliefs. There’s really very little question about the law here. San Antonio airport has spent hundreds of thousands in legal fees on what will ultimately be a losing battle on this issue for instance.

    And it’s not even Chick-fil-A whose employees are in airports. Airport concessions are generally operated by companies like OTG and Delaware North who just license a concept from a third party.

  6. Bizarre. This boomer never would have guessed that CfA has a cult following similar, say, to In-N-Out. Definitely not worth it IMHO.

    I can’t see this becoming a “thing” in most locations where the off airport locations are usually more convenient and almost certainly have lower prices.

  7. it’s a shame anyone would buy from an avowed homophobic company.But homophobes voted Trump in so it goes without saying. Would these same people buy from a known anti-Semitic or racist company (well, I bet many Chick-Fil-A enthusiasts certainly would).

  8. FYI – SEA required 24-hour notice prior to your desire to go airside without traveling so the RPI bunch couldn’t have pulled this stunt last minute at SEA.

    Also note that the program has been suspended. For months.

  9. Troy NY has a Popeye’s, and their chicken sandwich is better than Chick-Fil-A’s, so why go to this expense other than to try to get attention?

  10. An airport could make an argument that their passengers fly seven days a week, and are in the airport seven days a week, so all food concessionaires should also be open seven days a week. The fact that Chic-Fil-A does this because of the owner’s religious beliefs are not relevant, and the owner’s other opinions that are repugnant to me, aren’t relevant either – being closed on Sundays is.

  11. @Gary

    Thank you for your response, much clearer now. I will say, at least to me, the lighthearted intent of your point was lost, perhaps because of the highly charged, overly saturated, political environment/season we’re in — I much prefer the English system of campaigning, limited to a few weeks prior to an election, not starting the day after the last election 🙁 With that, sir, I owe you an apology for my jumping to a conclusion on your conclusion.

    Keep up the fine blogging 🙂

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