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WNBA will finally use charter flights after years of controversy



WNBA will finally use charter flights after years of controversy

Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese and Brittney Griner. Getty Images (3)

The stars of the WNBA will finally be able to fly the friendly skies in privacy.

After teams were forced to fly commercially since the league’s founding in 1996, WNBA became commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced on Tuesday, May 7 that “we plan to fund a full-time charter for this season.”

Engelbert noted that the policy change would take effect “as soon as we can get aircraft on site.” The WNBA regular season begins Tuesday, May 14.

The announcement comes after years of struggle by teams and players who often had to deal with travel delays, layovers, uncomfortable seats and overwhelming attention at airports.

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“I was at the airport for 6 hours…flight canceled…woo chile, this flying commercial is something else 😒,” two-time WNBA champion Aja Wilson wrote via X during her rookie season with the Las Vegas Aces.

‘It’s about 7 o’clock at the airport’, the Aces’ Kayla McBride wrote via X in 2018. “I hope we can solve this. I try not to travel all night with a layover and have to play a big game tomorrow.”

In 2022, the New York Liberty was fined $500,000 for attempting to circumvent the rule by chartering flights to away games during the second half of the 2021 season.

The WNBA estimates it would cost $25 million to operate charter flights for the entire season. The league began instituting private charters for the playoffs and back-to-back games for teams last year.

The WNBA is finally using charter flights after years of controversy 869 / MEGA

“It’s something I’ve been working on since I came into the league,” Englebert told the Associated Press at the time. “It was never about coming up with money for one year, but about creating a sustainable model so that the charter program could continue in perpetuity. Once you do it, you have to do it every year.”

This move is seen as necessary as women’s basketball – and therefore the WNBA – continues to grow exponentially in popularity.

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The former Iowa star will make his debut in the 2024-2025 season Caitlin Clark, who was drafted No. 1 overall by the Indiana Fever in April. Many considered it a safety risk for Clark, 22, to travel commercially throughout the season.

The WNBA is finally using charter flights after years of controversy 868

Additionally, Brittney Grinner is back for her eleventh season with the Phoenix Mercury. In December 2022, 33-year-old Griner was released after spending ten months in a Russian prison on drug possession charges.

When Griner made a triumphant return last season, she was confronted by a YouTube personality named Alex Stein who, according to a police report“made some inappropriate comments” to Griner as she and the Mercury traveled through Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

“Our league is growing, the demand for women’s basketball is growing,” Seattle Storm star and president of the WNBA Players’ Association Nneka Ogwumike said of the charter flight announcement. “That means more eyes on us, and that’s what we want, but that also means more protection from the organization we play for, the whole W we play for.”