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I don’t know if you were aware of this, but most WNBA teams fly commercial.
For whatever reason, this shocks and appalls certain people. The kind that doesn’t understand that chartered flights are pretty expensive. If they weren’t. everyone would take them all the time.
In light of recent travel nightmares — okay, really just that time Alex Stein asked Brittany Griner questions loudly — there have been for the league’s players to stop flying private.
Charter flights have been a bone of contention for a while in the WNBA. The New York Liberty received a $500,000 fine for using charted planes in 2021. Since then, the league loosened restrictions, and teams can use them for back-to-backs.
Unless you’re Griner, who has been given the all-clear to take charter flights whenever.
But still, that’s not good enough so here we are..,
The Associated Press decided to publish a piece detailing the trials and tribulations WNBA players face when traveling.
Now, these are trials and tribulations you wouldn’t understand, at least if you’ve never set foot on a plane or in an airport before.
Otherwise, you’ll be like, “Yeah, I know, that’s called flying.”
The Horrors Of Commercial Flying
The AP tagged along with the New York Liberty and documented their travels. This included the time star player Breanna Stewart had to ask the dude in the aisle seat to get up so she could use the bathroom.
“The man politely complied, perhaps unaware that one of the best players in the women’s game would be sharing his overhead bin space for the next four hours,” the AP’s Doug Feinberg writes.
It’s good to hear that he complied. There’s some decency in the world. As for whether or not he picked up on who Stewart was, does it matter?
The article says that the WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement is why they don’t take chartered flights. That’s not because of the patriarchy or some draconian anti-women agenda. It’s because, by the AP’s admission, it would cost $25 million a year, or $2 million per team.
That’s a lot. If the teams had the extra dough lying around to give those ladies some extra leg room they’d do it. They just don’t have it.
And so, these poor elite athletes have to travel like the rest of us. Getting to the airport early to deal with layovers and cancellations.
“It was an early day. Drop your bags off, get on the bus to go to the airport to transfer to Atlanta to get to Vegas,” Stewart said in the piece. “I’m tired.”
This is the experience of 99.99% of travelers. Although, it’s worth noting, that the Liberty were helped through the process by an airline rep who escorted them through the priority line. They even got to breeze through security, although international players didn’t get that luxury.
Thankfully WNBA Players Don’t Fly Economy, That Would Be A Bridge Too Far
At least the league isn’t forcing these brave athletes to fly economy though. According to the piece the CBA dictates “comfort seats or economy-plus.”
Regular economy is for peasants like the rest of us.
“Stewart and her teammates don’t fly economy, but the seats are still tight,” Feinberg writes. He then noted that players are allowed to pay to upgrade to first class if they want.
Again, Stewart, for instance, is 6-foot-4 and some WNBAers are taller. Planes aren’t comfortable for people that tall.
I’m nature’s perfect height of 5-foot-10. I flew this past weekend and after 2 hours and 40 minutes in the center seat, even I lumbered off the plane with stiff legs and a right asscheek that was half asleep. I didn’t have to play a WNBA game in front of a two-thirds-empty arena later that night, but it still wasn’t fun.
There Is No Comfortable Way To Travel If You’re Tall
Unfortunately, this is the nature of flying: it’s cramped. That’s the price we pay for being able to travel from coast to coast in six hours when just 100 years ago the same trip would’ve taken months and resulted in the loss of at least one limb.
The tallest WNBA players would have to squeeze even their own personal Jetstreams. So, unless they want to start traveling by Pullman rail cars like 19th-century oil magnates, I don’t have a solution for how someone that tall can travel anywhere comfortably.
The only thing I can think of is a zeppelin, but even those have drawbacks (like not really existing anymore).
What fascinates me about this “controversy” are the attempts to appeal to the public like with this AP piece. That’s who you should complain to: the people who have no say in the matter or have any sympathy to offer because we have to do the same thing.
I’m not sure what the public is supposed to do about this. Donate money to a WNBA charter plane fund? Play sad music on violins? Stage sit-ins at the nearest Southwest terminal?
Again, I feel sorry that these ladies are inconvenienced. But if the league brought in enough money, they’d fly charter all the time.
Although more than likely, there would eventually be complaints about that too.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle