The WNBA adds charter flights for the finals. Here's why it matters.

Delay after delay. Then a cancellation. Sprouted bathrooms. Struggle with yourself to pay $4 for a small bag of Skittles. Forgetting...


Delay after delay. Then a cancellation. Sprouted bathrooms. Struggle with yourself to pay $4 for a small bag of Skittles. Forgetting your headphones and wanting to cry. Now the electrical outlet in your seat isn’t working and the people sitting next to you on the plane can’t stop coughing. Do they have the Covid?

Anyone who steals often experiences these pains, and WNBA players have to deal with all of this as well. WNBA players – they’re like us, flying on commercial airlines. But why?

The league, founded in 1996 and in its 26th season, said there was a simple reason players weren’t allowed to fly charter planes: unlike the NBA – a multibillion-dollar operation that enters its 77th season which flies its players by charter – the WNBA said there was not enough money to pay for it. Cathy Engelbert, WNBA Commissioner said it would cost over $20 million to fly all of its 12 teams on charter rather than commercial airlines for a full season.

“Hopefully in a few years as we get more viewers to the game, we get more sponsors, we get better media deals, that would be something we could afford,” Engelbert said in a recent interview. But she also said she would not “jeopardize the financial health of the league” by flying players on charter.

The WNBA’s finances are more precarious than those of other leagues, but it recently raised $75 million from investors including Nike and Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state. Still, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to leagues like the NHL, which was projected generate $5 billion in revenue. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said his league made more than $10 billion in revenue for the 2021-22 season. The WNBA declined to disclose its annual earnings.

Ahead of Sunday’s WNBA All-Star Game, Engelbert announced the league would cover charter flights for teams in the Finals. The league has occasionally covered charter travel for teams with tight schedules during the playoffs, but its collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union prohibits teams from chartering flights themselves. The The WNBA fined the Liberty $500,000 for secretly traveling to several games by charter last season.

WNBA players have publicly hinted at how their travel affects their preparation for game day. But what can frequent commercial trips do to the body?

To better understand, it is important to know how players travel when on business with the WNBA. The terms of the collective bargaining agreement state that teams are allowed to book players in premium economy class seats “or a similar upgraded coach fare”. Although a handful of US airlines offer true premium economy seats, they are mostly available on international flights and include perks such as convenience kits that aren’t offered on domestic routes. On domestic routes, carriers like American Airlines and Delta Air Lines offer seats with more legroom.

For a player heading to or from a game, Delta and American seats with more legroom can be a golden ticket. These tickets often offer a more comfortable flight experience than economy class: more legroom, a seat closer to the exit, and free drinks and snacks.

For example, American Airlines flies its Boeing 787-800 – a jumbo jet with more than 230 seats – between cities like Chicago and Los Angeles. American offers premium economy seats with a pitch – the distance between a seat and the same point on the seat in front of it – of 38 inches and additional seats in the main cabin with pitches between 35 and 36 inches. By comparison, the 787’s main cabin seats are only 31 inches apart. On a United Airlines flight between, say, Newark and Seattle, a route that operates a Boeing 737-900, an Economy Plus traveler can expect between three and four inches more legroom than an economy traveler. regular.

Players can upgrade their seats on their own, but must pay the difference in cost or airline miles. Los Angeles Sparks Center Liz Cambagewho is 6 feet 9 inches tall, slammed the league on Twitter for its upgrade policy in February, saying, “You think I’m gonna spend another season upgrading my seat on a flight to access games out of my own pocket.”

JetBlue and the so-called Big 3 airlines – American, United and Delta – offer extended seats in Business Class or First Class on select transcontinental routes. Some, like American, offer elongated products — seats that recline into a full bed — on shorter routes, like New York to Miami. And on US flights over 900 miles, premium passengers receive a in-flight meal.

The WNBA’s travel policy raises questions about player fitness for game days and the impact travel can have on the body. But the cost of these premium products can be high. Travelers who don’t have enough miles – or a free supplement – can expect to pay, in some cases, hundreds of dollars or thousands of miles for a seat upgrade.

Such prices can be prohibitive for average WNBA players, whose minimum salaries start at around $60,000 for the 2022 season.

“The union asked for certain things,” Engelbert said, “and the players asked for more pay. They didn’t ask for first class or charter travel. They asked for more pay.

Earlier this year, Terri Jackson, executive director of the players’ union, said the players had many objectives during contract negotiations and had not prioritized full-season charters, although they hoped to be able to travel from this way eventually.

“We haven’t entered into negotiations to break the bank,” she said. “We care too much about this league. But we want to be supported.

Experts have also raised concerns about the impacts of business travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

A federal judge in mid-April struck off the federal mandate requiring face masks on public transportation, including trains and airports. Now it’s up to individual travelers to decide. According government The figures. More than 2.4 million passengers passed through security checkpoints on Sunday – one of the busiest days since the start of the pandemic.

Some players, like Seattle’s Breanna Stewart and Natasha Cloud of Washington, have tweeted about risk of theft commercial during the pandemic while trying not to catch the coronavirus, which would cause them to miss games.

However, it is important to note that any form of travel – commercial or private – can lead to a positive coronavirus test. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention always recommend travelers to wear a face mask on airplanes and at airports. And leagues that fly their players by charter have not been spared from outbreaks. Virtually every major league has brought players into health and safety protocols. The NHL had to interrupt its season in December amid an increase in positive cases among players caused by the Omicron variant. The NBA in December too postponed several matches after an outbreak across the league.

With any commercial travel there is the risk of flight delays, cancellations and being re-routed or having to relocate in-flight. But an uptick in summer travel and ongoing staffing shortages have made air travel more frustrating as the WNBA moves forward in its season.

More than 6,200 flights were delayed within, to or from the United States on Sunday, and more than 2,000 flights were canceled in total, according to the website. FlightAware.com, which tracks airline delays and cancellations. And unlike charter jets, which are often nonstop, WNBA players may need to connect to other airports before reaching their final destination.

In recent years, travel delays caused by layovers or flight cancellations have hampered the league. A 2018 game between the Las Vegas Aces and the Washington Mystics had to be called off after the Aces ended more than one day delay in transit to access the game.

This travel stress, said Dr. Ida Bergstrom, an internal medicine physician at Farragut Medical and Travel Carea travel-health clinic in Washington, DC, can be taxing for athletes expected to compete at high levels once they land.

“If you’re traveling for 24 to 36 hours on business and the flights are delayed, or you’re in the middle of nowhere, and you have to perform not just mentally but physically, it’s really tough,” he said. she declared.

And more trips are on the way: On Sunday, Engelbert said the season would grow to 40 games next season from 36 this year. It’s part of an effort to generate more revenue for the league, which could help fund charters down the line. But in the meantime, players will continue to sneak through airports, just like us.

“Physically, you won’t be able to perform as well if you don’t have the opportunity to rest and regroup,” Dr. Bergstrom said.



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Newsrust - US Top News: The WNBA adds charter flights for the finals. Here's why it matters.
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