WNBA is finally treating players like professionals in one key area

WNBA teams will fly charter beginning in 2024. It's about time.
2024 WNBA Draft
2024 WNBA Draft / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

After several years of WNBA teams and players flying commercial, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert upgraded their travel plans for the upcoming campaign.

The league plans to launch a program for all 12 teams to fly by charter for the 2024 season. The season begins on May 14, but Engelbert says this will happen as soon as possible.

“We intend to fund a full-time charter for this season,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said Tuesday during a meeting with reporters, according to the Associated Press. The chartered flights will begin “as soon as we can get planes in place.”

Just last month, Engelbert announced the league would pay for charter flights for all playoff games and all back-to-back travel situations this upcoming season that required air travel. But most of the flights were set to be commercial just like they had been in past seasons.

WNBA's increasing popularity has led to travel policy changes

The New York Liberty and owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai were fined $500,000 for breaking regulations during the 2021 season. In past seasons, the league's collective bargaining agreement did not allow teams to pay for charter flights on their own due to competitive balance rules. But the Liberty broke that and flew private with players posting on social media and vocalizing the luxury.

This season is different on many levels, though. The rise of women's basketball is at its highest we have ever seen. And the little things, such as flying commercial to go to games, are being addressed in a timely manner.

Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever were mobbed by the press after their commercial flight landed in Dallas ahead of their preseason game against the Dallas Wings.

Just last season we saw players rallying with one another saying that the WNBA doesn't treat players as "professionals."

Many of the star athletes across the league have spoken out about the flying commercial situation—especially Brittney Griner after her 10-month detainment in Russia. Early last season, she and her Phoenix Mercury teammates were harassed at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport during a road trip. But after that incident, she was granted permission to fly charter for the remainder of the season due to concerns over her safety. She paid out of pocket for the flights.

The stories don't end there; players have been verbally attacked in these airports and have experienced absurd airline delays to make them late or even have to forfeit some games. But now that the league is getting the recognition it has been waiting for, Engelbert is using it to the league's advantage.

This is just the beginning of the revamp of the WNBA. The players and the teams are finally getting treated like professionals.