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WNBA Announces Charter Flights Will Begin ‘Once Planes Are Available’

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The WNBA is gearing up to introduce charter flights for its teams, marking a significant shift in travel accommodations for players.

Commissioner Cathy Engelbert revealed on Tuesday that the league is moving forward with plans to offer full-time private travel services starting as early as this season. The decision comes in response to longstanding concerns over player safety and logistical challenges associated with commercial air travel.

Engelbert emphasized that the league is actively working to implement the program, aiming to secure planes and launch the initiative as soon as possible. The anticipated cost of the charter flights is estimated to be around $25 million per year over the next two seasons.

While charter flights have been sporadically provided in the past, particularly during the postseason and for back-to-back games, this new initiative represents a comprehensive approach to private travel for all WNBA teams. Previously, individual team owners faced penalties for arranging unauthorized charters, underscoring the need for a league-wide solution.

The decision to transition to charter flights has been met with widespread support from players, coaches, and the WNBA Players Association (WNBPA). WNBA Players Association president Nneka Ogwumike hailed the move as “transformational” and commended both the league and the WNBPA for their collaboration in implementing the program.

Despite the positive reception, some coaches and players acknowledge that there may be logistical challenges to overcome. However, the consensus among stakeholders is that prioritizing player safety and well-being is paramount, particularly in light of recent incidents, such as the harassment experienced by Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner while traveling commercially last season.

“All these players and these faces are becoming so popular that it really is about that as much as it as about recovery,” Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier said.

“Above everything else, I think it’s the safety of our players,” Mercury player Natasha Cloud added. “We have a prime example with BG on our team that needs to be safe. At airports, it’s like a madhouse. You see Caitlin Clark walking through airports, people following her, people trying to touch her, get pictures with her. It’s just a safety measure, through and through. You would never have an NBA team walk through an airport.”

In summary, the WNBA’s decision to introduce charter flights reflects a proactive step towards addressing player safety concerns and enhancing travel accommodations for teams. With plans underway to roll out charter flights for all regular season games, the league is poised to provide a more streamlined and secure travel experience for its athletes.

“Our safety is being taken seriously now, finally. In no world should our security not be a priority,” Griner told ESPN. “If we want to be the league that we want to be and have the respect that we have, it comes with some risks. Sometimes people want to get close to you and it’s not people you want, so I’m just glad that we don’t have to deal with that anymore.”

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