WNBA

WNBA Commissioner Says Charter Flight Program Still Has A Few Kinks But Is Running Smoothly

May 31, 2024, 4:24 PM

WNBA-Commissioner-Cathy-Engelbert-NYSE...

People celebrate as WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange during morning trading on May 17, 2024 in New York City. Stocks opened slightly up at the opening of the stock market a day after the Dow Jones briefly rose above 40,000 for the first time. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — The WNBA‘s new charter flight program still has a few expected kinks but commissioner Cathy Engelbert expects everything to be running smoothly after the Olympic break.

WNBA Commissioner says charter flight program still has kinks

“It’s a big Rubik’s Cube,” Engelbert told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday. “Where could we get planes and pilots for long haul flights? It’s not like the plane takes you and waits there for two days. It’s been deployed elsewhere. There’s a logistical complexity.”

It usually takes months of work to put together a charter schedule for a professional league because of plane availability and pilot staffing. The WNBA was able to get it done in a few weeks, in large part because of a longstanding relationship with Delta and the blueprint the NBA has in place.

“The footprint of our season is so dense. We wanted to take advantage of the fact that we knew these first couple of weeks, especially on the front end of this, were going to be challenging for our teams,” Engelbert said. “That’s why we pulled the trigger when we did. We looked at the schedule and challenges it created and decided it was time.”

Engelbert said that the original plan was to roll out the charters gradually as they became available, but the league was able to secure charters for every team within a week of the season starting.

The league, which will pay about $25 million annually for the next two years for the flights, will use three types of planes for its charters — VIP, Delta mainline and regional jets.

So far, most of the flights have been done on regional jets because of aircraft availability. May, June and July are the busiest months for flying and other planes weren’t available on such short notice.

The regional jets are smaller with 30 seats and have to stop to refuel on long flights. The NBA also used regional jets when it started its charter flight program in 1997 — and had to stick with them for nearly a decade.

Many of the planes also haven’t had power outlets or WiFi — a problem that also occurs on commercial flights sometimes. Small inconveniences that definitely don’t outweigh the positives of charter flights, which have been monumental.

“It happened overnight almost,” WNBA players’ union president Nneka Ogwumike said. “It was a little bit shaky on the rollout, but nevertheless for me I think it’s a huge win. The only word I can think about is transformational.”

No longer do players have to get up at 5 a.m. to get to the airport to fly to the next city for a game. Travel time has been nearly cut in half. They also don’t have to deal with long security lines and cramped seats.

Last season, the AP traveled with New York on a trip from Connecticut to Las Vegas that took 13 hours to get between cities because of connecting flights.

“The fact is we can just pull up to the plane and get on the plane and get ready to go,” Liberty forward Breanna Stewart said. “We haven’t done it yet, but to be able to finish a game and then fly out to the next city and not waste a whole day is huge.”

Players can do much needed recovery after games now on flights as they head to the next city.

Of the 120 flights that franchises will have to make in May and June, the league was able to get 116 of them at the team’s preferred times to fly. That’s allowed teams to practice at home and then fly on the road.

The league will track how many times a team flies on each of the charter options and those will balance out over time.

The Indiana Fever, for instance, took the first charter flight and it was on a VIP aircraft. That was only possible because the Indiana Pacers were in the playoffs and their charter was available to take the Fever to Connecticut.

The WNBA started paying for charter flights for teams that were playing back-to-back games last season. Coming into this season, they kept that program going before securing charter flights for every road game. Some teams, however, may have bigger planes or VIP ones because they are playing back-to-back games or are in the finals of the Commissioner’s Cup on June 25.

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

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.

4 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.

6 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.

8 days ago

A'ja-Wilson-Las-Vegas-Aces-WNBA...

The Associated Press

Las Vegas Aces’ A’ja Wilson Posts Historic Performance In Win Over Dallas Wings

A’ja Wilson had 36 points, 12 rebounds and six steals to help the Las Vegas Aces beat the Dallas Wings 95-81 on Wednesday night.

10 days ago

Caitlin Clark WNBA Debut Indiana Fever Connecticut Sun...

DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer

Caitlin Clark Prepares For WNBA Regular-Season Debut As Fever Take On Connecticut

Caitlin Clark's much anticipated WNBA debut is set for Tuesday night as the Indiana Fever take on the Connecticut Sun.

1 month ago

WNBA-Commissioner-Cathy-Engelbert...

Teresa M. Walker, AP

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

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that the league will launch a charter program “as soon as we can get planes in places.”

1 month 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 Commissioner Says Charter Flight Program Still Has A Few Kinks But Is Running Smoothly