WNBA set to have full-time charter flights for teams beginning this season

 

For the first time in league history, the WNBA will have full-time chartered flights for its teams throughout the season.

Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a meeting with sports editors that the league will launch a charter program “as soon as we can get planes in places.” 

She said it is projected to cost around $25 million per year for the next two seasons.

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Teams have traveled commercially since its inception in 1997, resulting in player safety concerns.

However, it reached a boiling point last year when Brittney Griner, roughly six months after she was released from Russian prison in a controversial exchange with United States officials, was targeted by “inappropriate and unfortunate” actions of a “social media figure and provocateur” at a Dallas airport.

Griner and other members of the Phoenix Mercury were walking in a Dallas airport when Alex Stein walked beside her and asked why she “hates” and “still want[s] to boycott” America.

Griner said the incident was “rock bottom” for the WNBA.

Earlier this week, Caitlin Clark, the NCAA’s all-time scorer and first pick of last month’s WNBA Draft, said that flying commercial would have been “an adjustment.”

LSU’s Flau’Jae Johnson also said she wanted to see “conditions for the players” improve.

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New York Liberty owner Joe Tsai, who also owns the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, was fined by the WNBA $500,000 for providing his team with charter flights in 2022. It went against the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players’ union, as it said there may be a potential unfair competitive advantage over franchises that could not afford charters. 

As such, WNBA teams have primarily flown commercially, and sometimes that means entire days traveling across the country. However, heading into the last season, the league expanded its charter flight policy, allowing private flights for all postseason games, back-to-back games and select regular-season games.

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WNBA teams also have the ability to book flights on JSX, which is in a sense a chartered flight, as teams can purchase the entire flight for themselves on an already-scheduled route.

The WNBA season begins on May 14.

Fox News’ Scott Thompson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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