WNBA adds charter flights to finals. That’s why it’s important.

Delay after delay. Then cancel. German bathrooms. Fighting yourself for paying $4 for a small pack of Skittles. Forget your headphones and want to cry. Now the outlet in your seat doesn’t work, and the people sitting next to you on the plane don’t stop coughing. Do they have Covid?

Anyone who flies often knows these pains, and WNBA players have to deal with it all too. WNBA players are just like us, they fly commercial airlines. But why?

The league, founded in 1996 and in its 26th season, said there’s a simple reason players aren’t allowed to fly on charter planes: Unlike the NBA, a multibillion-dollar company that is entering its 77th season and flying its players on charter flights – the WNBA said they don’t have enough money to pay for it. WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said it would have cost over $20 million to have all of his 12 teams fly on charter flights rather than commercial airlines for an entire season.

“We hope that in a few years, if we bring more viewers to the game, we will have more sponsors, we will get better deals with the media, we will be able to afford it,” Engelbert said in a recent interview. But she also said she wouldn’t “jeopardize the financial health of the league” by chartering players.

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

Before Sunday’s WNBA All-Star Game, Engelbert announced that the league would pay for charter flights for teams during the finals. The league has occasionally covered charter flights for teams with busy schedules during the playoffs, but its collective agreement with the players’ union bans teams from charter flights themselves. WNBA fines Liberty $500,000 for a clandestine trip to a few charter games last season.

WNBA players have publicly mentioned how their travel affects their matchday readiness. But what can frequent business trips do to the body?

To better understand, it’s important to know how players travel on WNBA business. The terms of the collective bargaining agreement state that teams are allowed to book players with premium economy class seats “or a similar improved bus fare.” While several US airlines offer Premium Economy Class seats, these are mostly available on international flights and include perks such as amenity kits that are not offered on domestic flights. On domestic routes, carriers including American Airlines and Delta Air Lines offer seats with extra legroom.

For a player heading to or from a game, the Delta and American seats with extra legroom can be the golden ticket. These tickets often offer a more comfortable flight 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 wide-body aircraft, which seats more than 230 seats, between cities like Chicago and Los Angeles. American offers premium economy seats in 38-inch spacing (the distance between a seat and the same point on the seat in front of it) and optional main cabin seats in 35 to 36-inch spacing. By comparison, the seats in the 787’s main cabin have a pitch of just 31 inches. On a United Airlines flight between, say, Newark and Seattle, on a Boeing 737-900 route, an economy passenger can expect three to four inches more legroom than the average economy traveler.

Players can upgrade their seats themselves, but will benefit from the difference in fares or airline miles. Los Angeles Sparks Center Liz Cambageheight 6 feet 9 inches, slammed the league tweeted about its upgrade policy in February, saying “I think I’ll spend another season upgrading my plane seat to get to games out of my own pocket.”

JetBlue and the so-called “big three” airlines American, United and Delta offer business or first class rollaway seats on some transcontinental routes. Some, like American, offer bunk bed products — seats that fold out into a full bed — on shorter routes, like from New York to Miami. And on US flights of more than 900 miles, premium passengers receive in-flight catering.

The WNBA’s travel policy raises questions about players’ fitness for matchdays and the effects of travel on the body. But the cost of these premium products can be high. Travelers without sufficient miles – or free update – In some cases, they can expect to be paid hundreds of dollars or thousands of miles for seat upgrades.

Such prices can be prohibitive for average WNBA players whose minimum wage from 60 000 dollars for the 2022 season.

“The union was demanding certain things,” Engelbert said, “and the players were demanding higher wages. They didn’t ask for first class or a charter flight. They asked for a raise.”

Earlier this year, Terry Jackson, chief executive of the players’ union, said the players had many goals in contract negotiations and were not prioritizing full-season charters, although they hope they can eventually move down that path.

“We didn’t negotiate to hit the jackpot,” she said. “We care too much about this league. But we want to be supported.”

Experts have also raised concerns about the impact of commercial travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

BUT a federal judge in mid-April dismissed a federal mandate requiring the use of masks on public transportation, including trains and airports. Now it’s up to individual travelers. Air travel is nearing pre-pandemic levels, with more than 2 million travelers passing through airport security checkpoints every day. government numbers. 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 Breanna Stewart and Natasha Cloud from Washington, tweeted about flight risks ads during the pandemic, trying not to catch the coronavirus, which will cause them to miss games.

However, it is important to note that any form of travel – commercial or private – can result in a positive coronavirus test result. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends that travelers wear a face mask on airplanes and at airports. And leagues that transport their players on charter flights have not been immune to outbreaks. In virtually every major league, players must follow health and safety protocols. NHL had to suspend the season in December amid a spike in positive cases among players fueled by the Omicron variant. NBA in December too several games have been postponed after the outbreak in the league.

With any commercial travel, there is a risk of flight delays, cancellations, re-routing or the need to move around in flight. But a surge in summer travel and an ongoing shortage of staff have made air travel more frustrating as the WNBA season approaches.

More than 6,200 flights within the US, to and from the US were delayed Sunday, with more than 2,000 flights canceled altogether, according to the website. FlightAware.com, which tracks flight delays and cancellations. And unlike charter planes, which often fly non-stop, WNBA players may need to transfer at other airports before they reach their final destination.

The league has been hampered in recent years by flight delays caused by flight delays or cancellations. A 2018 game between the Las Vegas Aces and the Washington Mystics was canceled after the Aces spent more than a day of travel delay to get into the game.

This travel stress, said dr. Ida Bergström, general practitioner Farragut Medical and Travel Servicesa travel clinic in Washington, D.C. may tax athletes who are expected to compete at a high level after landing.

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

And there’s more travel ahead: On Sunday, Engelbert said the season would expand to 40 games next season from 36 this year. This is part of an effort to increase the league’s revenue, which could help fund charters in the future. But in the meantime, players will still be making their way 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,” the doctor says. Bergstrom said.