April 10, 2023 

WNBA adds charter flights for entire playoffs, part of regular season

Charters covered for entire postseason, five regular season games

The WNBA is expanding its charter flights program from covering just the Finals and the Commissioner’s Cup championship to the entire playoffs and select regular season season games.

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The league announced the news on Monday morning, with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert telling the Associated Press the league will pay for the flights. The league is allowing five teams to fly charter when they are playing on a back-to-back with travel in between games.

In a press release, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said she continues to work on “transforming the business of the league, and the ability to expand this program is a direct result of that.”

“Since joining the league a few years ago, a goal of mine has been to enhance the overall player experience and, in that regard, make incremental improvements where we are able to do so and when we believe the economic model would support it for the long-term,” Engelbert said in a statement. “I’m pleased that we are able to broaden the program this year for the players. As the league continues to grow, we will look to do more in the future.”

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The five regular season instances are:

  • The Los Angeles Sparks playing in Phoenix on June 2 and flying to Los Angeles for a June 3 game
  • The Las Vegas Aces playing a home game on July 11 and flying to Los Angeles for a July 12 game
  • The Seattle Storm playing in Washington on July 11 and flying to Atlanta for a July 12 game
  • The Atlanta Dream playing in Los Angeles on Aug. 12 and flying to Las Vegas for an Aug. 13 game
  • The New York Liberty playing in Las Vegas on Aug. 17 and flying to Phoenix for an Aug. 18 game

The WNBA has previously provided charter flights to teams that competed in the WNBA Finals the last two years and to the road team for last year’s Commissioner’s Cup championship.

Engelbert also addressed the travel situation for the Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner, who was released in a prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Russia last December.

“We’ve been working with Brittney and Phoenix since she signed and our security experts,” Engelbert said. “Working on a plan, but we want it to be confidential. She wants to travel with the team sometimes. Work as much as we can making sure we are following the advice of our team. We have a very good plan, but I’m not going to share more specifics.”

Charter flights have been a major issue in the WNBA for several seasons, especially after Sports Illustrated reported that the New York Liberty were fined $500,000 for paying for some charter flights during the 2021 season.

Engelbert also told the AP that charter flights may not be back next season, as the WNBA’s season will be condensed by the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

The Associated Press also reported that it would cost approximately $2 million per franchise to fund charter flights for the entire season, while current air expenses range around $150,000.

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Written by Aya Abdeen

Aya Abdeen is a student in sports journalism at Arizona State University and has been a contributing writer for The Next since December 2022. She is also a sports reporter for the Sun Devils’ women’s basketball team for The State Press. Her work has also appeared on AZPreps365.

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