WNBA

WNBA To Begin Full-Time Charter Flights This Season, Commissioner Says

May 8, 2024, 9:46 AM

WNBA-Commissioner-Cathy-Engelbert...

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert speaks prior to the 2024 WNBA Draft at Brooklyn Academy of Music on April 15, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

AP – The WNBA plans to commit $50 million over the next two years to provide full-time charter flight service for its teams during the season, the league’s commissioner announced Tuesday in a move that addresses years of player safety concerns.

WNBA To Begin Full-Time Charter Flights This 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’s projected to cost around $25 million per year for the next two seasons.

That means no more long security lines, bodyguards in public spaces, cramped legroom or layovers for the professional athletes who have been lobbying for better travel long before Caitlin Clark’s celebrity brought newfound interest to the league.

Most importantly, Lynx forward Napheesa Collier says, it means safety for the players.

“All these players and these faces are becoming so popular that it really is about that as much as it as about recovery,” Collier said, noting how last season Brittney Griner was harassed by what the WNBA called a “provocateur” while traveling commercial.

The WNBA already had announced plans to once again pay for charter flights for the entire playoffs as well as for back-to-back games during the upcoming season. The league introduced that program last year, spending about $4 million on charter flights. Engelbert said at the time the league needed to be in the right financial position to do full-time charter flights.

The WNBA has never been more popular thanks to rookies like Clark, who helped the NCAA reach its best viewership in history for women’s basketball, with nearly 19 million fans watching the title game, along with Angel Reese who went to the Met Gala on Monday night and Cameron Brink.

Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said it’s not business as usual anymore: It’s time for the league, franchises and women’s sports to be innovative.

“We’ve had moments in the league,” Reeve said, calling the current momentum a tsunami. “But this is clearly a movement. And if you think it’s not, you’re going to get left behind.”

Clark attracted attention walking through the airport with her new Indiana Fever teammates for a preseason game with the Dallas Wings last week. That exhibition sold out with fans lined up eager to get inside.

WNBA teams also have been moving games against Clark and Indiana to bigger arenas because of increased demand. The defending champion Las Vegas Aces became the first WNBA team to sell out allotted season tickets back in March after leading the league in attendance in 2023.

Flights have been an ongoing issue for the WNBA that only increased last year when the league began working with the Phoenix Mercury and Griner after the All-Star center’s 10-month detainment in Russia.

The league hadn’t allowed teams to use charter flights except for when they had back-to-back games.

That forced players like Breanna Stewart, the 6-foot-4 forward for the New York Liberty, to squeeze past fellow travelers on commercial flights to fit into her assigned window seat. WNBA players also had to not only retrieve their own luggage but endure travel days that could stretch 13 hours with delays.

Charter flights will allow WNBA players to go through private air terminals straight to buses or their own cars when returning home. Avoiding layovers also will help with recovery between games, which is even more crucial with this season’s schedule around the Olympics.

WNBA coaches and players were waiting Tuesday for details about the charter flights.

Stewart spoke to reporters via Zoom just before the commissioner spoke in New York. Stewart shared on social media an airplane emoji with a question mark to the attention of the WNBA’s account.

Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon, whose Aces already had security in place to protect players, knows what will make everyone ecstatic.

RELATED: Former Ute Alissa Pili Receives A Special Welcome In Minnesota

“Everybody’s very happy they’re not going to have to stand in security lines as much, or as long,” Hammon said.

Two-time WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, who now has an endorsement deal with Gatorade, said the growth of the women’s game has been a “whirlwind” that was just a matter of time. Wilson said it’s up to the players and teams to put the best product on the court with so many people watching now.

“That’s what continues to bring more eyes and more people and more investors, and then we end up with charter flights, and then things are going off and people are spinning off, and now we’re having a great time,” Wilson said.

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

WNBA

Caitlin-Clark-Aja-Wilson-WNBA-2024...

Doug Feinberg, AP

A’ja Wilson, Caitlin Clark Lead WNBA All-Star Fan Vote

A'ja Wilson leads Caitlin Clark by just over a thousand votes in early fan voting for the WNBA All-Star Game, the league announced Friday.

3 days ago

Las Vegas Aces first WNBA team sellout every home game in a season...

MARK ANDERSON AP Sports Writer

Las Vegas Aces Become First WNBA Team To Sell Out Every Home Game In A Season

The Las Vegas Aces became the first WNBA team to sell out every home game in a season when the final tickets were claimed against Chicago.

3 days ago

Breanna-Stewart-Tokyo-2020-Olympics...

Kyle Ireland

Team USA’s Breanna Stewart Excited To Experience Paris 2024 With Family

WNBA star and Team USA's Breanna Stewart said she's excited to experience the Paris 2024 Summer Games with her family.

8 days ago

alissa-pili-goes-in-for-the-block-against-the-mercury-2024...

Michelle Bodkin

Utah Women’s Basketball Has Traveled To See Alissa Pili, Minnesota Lynx

Count Utah women's basketball as another team that takes the "family" motto to heart with several members traveling to watch Alissa Pili.

12 days ago

alissa-pili-competes-with-minnesota-lynx-in-wnba-2024...

Michelle Bodkin

Former Utah Women’s Basketball Star Alissa Pili Becomes Nike N7 Ambassador

Former Utah women's basketball star and current Minnesota Lynx rookie Alissa Pili just signed a deal to be a Nike N7 Ambassador last week.

15 days ago

Caitlin-Clark-Indiana-Fever-WNBA...

Doug Feinberg, AP

Report: Caitlin Clark Left Off USA Basketball National Team Olympic Roster

WNBA star Caitlin Clark won't be headed to the Paris Olympics, according to a person familiar with the decision.

16 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

KSL Sports

Utah Hockey Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Want to get the latest info on Utah's newest sports franchise? Sign up for the Utah Hockey newsletter!

Hans & Scotty's Day of Adoption...

Hans & Scotty’s Day Of Adoption

Join the KSL Sports Zone for Hans & Scotty's Day of Adoption, in partnership with the Humane Society of Utah, on June 25th, 2024!

ksl-sports-newsletter...

KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.

...

KSL Sports

Jazz Notes Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the Jazz Notes newsletter. Get insider analysis, game recaps and opportunities to win tickets!

3 kids wearing real salt lake jerseys smiling...

Real Salt Lake

6 Reasons You Need to Experience a RSL Matchday

RSL Games are a great way to spend time with your family with fun activities, good food, and traditions you can only experience at the field.

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.

WNBA To Begin Full-Time Charter Flights This Season, Commissioner Says