One of the most common complaints that have plagued the WNBA in recent years is charter flights. Prior to 2019, all WNBA team flights were done commercially. This often meant long and convoluted travel times for players. In 2018, the Las Vegas Aces lost an entire travel day due to canceled and rescheduled flights. To make matters worse, the league came down heavily on teams that gave its players charter flights. In 2022, the New York Liberty were fined $500,000 for unauthorized charter flights.
Things have incrementally improved under Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. Upon taking the commissioner role in 2019, she implemented charter flights for playoff games where a team would have to cross multiple time zones in a day. In 2022, charter flights were applied to the entire WNBA finals and the visiting team of the Commissoner's Cup. However, the issue is still a pertinent one. Tennessee center Tamari Key went as far as to cite the issue as part of the reason she was returning to college for another year. The league has been resistant to allow charters, citing a desire for "competitive balance".
WNBA Approves Charters For Back-To-Backs
In a press release ahead of the 2023 WNBA Draft, the WNBA announced that charter flights would once again be expanded. According to the release, the WNBA would allow teams to arrange charters in the event of games on back-to-back days. Charter flights would also be available for the entirety of the playoffs. However, it's not the sweeping change players were hoping for. There are just five instances of a team playing back-to-back games during the 2023 season. Furthermore, Engelbert told the Associated Press that the policy would be re-evaluated ahead of the Olympics-impacted 2024 season.
The move is a sign of growth and change for the league, but for many, it's not enough. Many experts have pointed to much more substantial growth of the NWSL, the nation's premier women's soccer league, in comparison. Furthermore, with potential WNBA talent like Key citing charters as a reason to stay away from the league, it could quickly become a league-threatening issue. But for now, the WNBA appears content with its limited expansion of charter flights.