WNBA charter flight issues, explained: Why the league is offering full-time private planes to teams in 2024

Changes are on the horizon in the world of women’s basketball.

After years of struggle, WNBA players have got their wish (well, at least one of them). The league will begin transporting players and teams across the country via charter flights, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced on Tuesday.

“We intend to fund a full-time charter for this season,” Engelbert said Tuesday in a meeting with sports editors.

According to USA Today’s Christine Brennan, the move comes as the league anticipates a major windfall of revenue in its next media deal. Players have consistently advocated for such a decision over the years, with Lynx guard Kayla McBride, Liberty star Breanna Stewart, and Sparks icon and WNBPA president Nneka Ogwumike positioning themselves as some of the movement’s most prominent voices.

Stewart in particular seemed pleased about the announcement. After catching wind of Brennan’s reporting, Stewart took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to express her delight.

Here’s what you need to know about the impending use of charter flights for all WNBA games, yet another indication of the league’s burgeoning growth.

WNBA charter flights, explained

The wait has been long and tedious, but finally, charter flights are headed to the WNBA. According to Engelbert, the program will cost the league around $25 million per year over the next two seasons.

The league’s charter flight program is imminent. However, it will only launch once the WNBA “can get planes in places.”

The struggle for charter flights has been a lengthy one, filled with false dawns and confusion. However, in recent years, the league has shown an increasing willingness to dole out some funds to relieve players of the challenges that come with flying commercial.

Last season, the league implemented a charter system for the postseason. Teams were also permitted to fly charter during back-to-back sets — a phenomenon that will be more prevalent in an Olympic year like 2024. Last year’s program cost the league $4.5 million.

Stewart in particular has been among the league’s loudest critics when it comes to the topic of charter flights. Just last year, she offered to be part of a deal to subsidize charter travel for the entire league. She drew praise from numerous sources, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

A great many players, including rookies Caitlin Clark, Cameron Brink, Kamilla Cardoso, and Angel Reese, were routinely transported to games via charter flights during their college days. The difference between a charter and commercial flight is stark. In an NFLPA statement supporting WNBPA members’ push for charter programs, the NFLPA’s medical director, Dr. Thom Mayer, outlined some of the benefits of charter travel on professional athletes’ recovery time.

“Travel, especially airplane travel, can have significant effects on a person’s health,” Mayer wrote, per Yahoo Sports. “There is a very important reason why NFL players travel the way they do: we insist on the highest standards of health and safety, and we are looking to do even more in this area. We support the WNBPA in their push for improved travel standards, which are vital to their health and performance.”

They’ll finally get their chance to in 2024. The quality of the sport will be better for it, too.

How much is the WNBA paying to provide teams with charter flights in 2024?

According to Engelbert, the league will be shelling out $25 million a year to provide all 12 teams with charter flights over the next two years.

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