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

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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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The WNBA logo on a basketball

A detail of the WNBA logo is seen on a basketball during warmups between the Seattle Storm and the Connecticut Sun at Climate Pledge Arena on June 20, 2023 in Seattle. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

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.

Caitlin Clark at the draft

Caitlin Clark speaks in a press conference after she was selected with the number one overall pick to the Indiana Fever in the 2024 WNBA Draft at Brooklyn Academy of Music in Brooklyn, New York, on April 15, 2024. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

BIZARRE CAITLIN CLARK INTERACTIONS LEAD TO DISCIPLINE FOR VETERAN COLUMNIST

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.

WNBA tip off

A detail of the WNBA logo is seen on the basketball during opening tipoff between the Seattle Storm and the Connecticut Sun at Climate Pledge Arena on June 20, 2023 in Seattle. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

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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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