WNBA says teams will fly charter for every game starting May 21

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WNBA teams across the league will fly charter to every game for the remainder of the season starting May 21, a WNBA spokesperson confirmed Thursday.

“As the league previously announced, we would be phasing in the program at the start of the season, and can share that beginning May 21 all teams will be flying charter to games,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Trips between Brooklyn, N.Y., and Uncasville, Conn., and Indianapolis and Chicago will remain as bus rides as planned exceptions due to the proximity between the markets.

News of a full-charter program going into effect next week comes after an uneven rollout of the league’s flight program. As the WNBA began its 28th regular season on Tuesday, multiple franchises were informed, on relatively short notice, that they would be flying charter to their season openers — the Indiana Fever and Minnesota Lynx flew private to Connecticut and Seattle, respectively — while others still traveled commercially.

“Two out of five WNBA teams traveling today are on WNBA charters — and that’s a win. It could be a bigger one if the W allowed teams who were not offered League charters to secure their own until a full 12-team solution is ready,” New York Liberty star forward Breanna Stewart posted on X, while also sharing a picture of her team on a charter bus en route to Washington, D.C.

“All 144 players, all 12 teams, all these guys deserve to have that,” Fever coach Christie Sides said, with her team having flown on a charter to Connecticut for its season opener. “It helps with your recovery, your rehab. It gives the players also a time (and) a place together where they can hang out.”

Initially, decisions were made to try and ease travel for franchises commuting on routes that might involve multiple legs or for the longest distances.

On Monday, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert also conducted two meetings — one in the morning and one in the afternoon — with players across the league to answer questions about the program. Engelbert, according to multiple players present at the meetings, stressed patience as they tried to iron out details about the program.

Last Tuesday, Engelbert announced that the league would be beginning a full-time charter flights program, much to the surprise, yet delight, of many around the WNBA. She said funding an entire season of charter travel will cost about $25 million per year for the next two years and that it would launch “as soon as we can logistically get planes in places.” The WNBA later announced the program would be primarily operated by Delta Air Lines.

WNBA players have called for private air travel for years. The league’s collective bargaining agreement required teams to book economy-plus tickets for players, and players had to pay out of pocket for first-class accommodations. The WNBPA had previously maintained that travel conditions posed health and safety issues. Players have also dealt with delays and cancellations through the years, and frequent coach travel isn’t ideal for tall athletes. Plus, with interest in the WNBA continuing to surge, flying commercial posed additional security concerns.

Before April’s WNBA Draft, Engelbert reiterated that the WNBA was not going to “jeopardize the financial viability of this league” to implement a season-long, leaguewide charter program. However, Engelbert said in a league-issued statement last week that the implication of the program is a “testament to the continued growth of the WNBA.”

“We have been hard at work to transform the business and build a sustainable economic model to support charter flights for the long term,” she added. “While we still have a lot of work to do to continue to execute our strategic plan, we feel confident that the time is now to institute a full charter program to demonstrate our commitment to leading with a player-first agenda.”

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(Photo: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)

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