Phoenix Mercury react to WNBA implementing league-wide charter flights

May 11, 2024, 8:32 AM

Chicago Sky v Phoenix Mercury...

Dana Evans #11 of the Chicago Sky attempts a shot over Sug Sutton #1 and Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury during the first half of the WNBA game at Footprint Center on July 20, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The WNBA will use league-wide charter flights for the first time this season, the league announced Thursday.

The charters will begin at the start of the regular season.

“We are thrilled to announce the launch of a full charter program as soon as practical for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, a testament to the continued growth of the WNBA,” commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “We have been hard at work to transform the business and build a sustainable economic model to support charter flights for the long term.

“While we still have a lot of work to do to continue to execute our strategic plan, we feel confident that the time is now to institute a full charter program to demonstrate our commitment to leading with a player-first agenda.”

Among other issues, players have said using charter flights would address years of safety concerns. It 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 helped bring increased interest to the league.

Delta will be the primary provider of the charters.

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.

Seattle Storm forward Nneka Ogwumike said the move is a big step forward.

“On behalf of the players, I express my appreciation and support for a bold move by the Commissioner and team governors that in turn shows that they understand and value the health and safety of the players. It is time to be transformational. It’s time to bet on women,” she said.

The WNBA’s 28th season tips off on Tuesday.

Phoenix Mercury respond to charter flights

Charter flights came up during Phoenix Mercury Media Day on Thursday.

“I’m really excited the younger players will not have to experience everything we experienced and the ones before us had to experience with that.  I always said that safety is like a number one key,” Brittney Griner told reporters.

“Our safety should have always been high priority. I understand where we’re more accessible to our fans, and that’s good to a certain extent. But I feel like we’ve hit the threshold now where it can be an endangerment and there are threats that are present. Last year, we had somebody roll up on us. That situation could have went totally different. Luckily it wasn’t as aggressive as it could have been. But we’ve seen in media, we’ve seen times where that can go really bad really quickly. So the fact we’re going to have these charter flights, where we don’t have to worry about that … I think it’s just gonna be better for us.”

Griner and her teammates were confronted by a “provocateur” at a Dallas airport last year.

“I don’t know why it hasn’t happened sooner,” Sophie Cunningham said. “It’s kind of ridiculous it’s taken this long. You have fans who are sitting right by us saying, Why aren’t you guys flying charter? You guys deserve way more and the attention is on you guys.”

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