PC: Kake

Teams in the WNBA cannot use charter planes to travel, in contrast to the NBA. And it has given WNBA teams in the middle of travel problems, much like other commercial airline travellers these days.

The Los Angeles Sparks are the most recent case in point. Nneka Ogwumike, the head of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, is one of their top athletes. She is urging the league to act after spending the night at an airport in between games, claiming that “a lot has changed in the commercial travel scene since we negotiated our current CBA,” a reference to the collective bargaining agreement that went into effect in 2020.

Ogwumike shared a video on social media early on Monday while attempting to fly home from Washington, DC, following the Sparks’ victory over the Washington Mystics on Sunday, saying, “We are exploring the terminal. I’ve played in 11 seasons, and this is the first time I’ve ever had to sleep in the airport.”
She subsequently clarifies that given the distance travelled, “it was only a question of time.”

FlightAware, a website that tracks flights, reports that this past weekend was a terrible one to fly, with 951 flights across the country being cancelled on Sunday and more than 9,000 flights experiencing delays.
Ogwumike said in the video that she was recording herself around 1:44 a.m. and that their flight had had many delays before being cancelled at that time. The group was rescheduled for 9:00 a.m. According to Ogwumike, only half of the team had hotel rooms, so they spent the night in the airport.

The league should “enable teams to invest in charter flights between games, beginning with the entire 2022 WNBA Playoffs, and continuing with a common sense, full-season solution beginning in 2023,” Ogwumike urged in a statement posted by the WNBPA on Twitter later that evening.

Ogwumike continued, “And in the spirit of collaboration, we call upon both private and commercial airline companies to recognise this bold opportunity to lead: American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, NetJets, Wheels Up, JetSuiteX, among others: We encourage you to meet us at the table and partner with WNBA players to help eliminate the most challenging opponent they face each season: travel.”
When contacted by CNN on Monday evening, the WNBA declined to comment. WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said last month at the WNBA All-Star Game that the league will provide charter flights for both teams during the 2019 WNBA Finals.

On July 10, Engelbert remarked, “I think we’ll seek for other opportunities to do charters like we’ve done in the past.” “People are unaware that we completed a number of charters during the playoffs last year when we faced hard one-day rest or no-days-rest conditions, so we’ll keep looking for those possibilities should our budget permit it. However, we wanted to begin sort of making progress and host the WNBA Finals.”

On Tuesday, the Connecticut Sun are expected to visit the Sparks. On August 17, the WNBA playoffs begin.