Breanna Stewart is going to keep pushing for more charter flights from the WNBA.
The league has come under fire in recent seasons for not allowing teams to charter private flights; instead, players are required to take commercial flights to road games.
In April, the league announced that it would expand its charter flight program to cover any team playing games on consecutive days, as well as all playoff games. Previously, just the WNBA Finals and the Commissioner’s Cup championship were covered by charter flights, with few exceptions.
But for Stewart, it’s not enough.
During the offseason, Stewart made private flights a major factor in her free agency negotiations. She ended up joining the New York Liberty, a team which has gotten into trouble with the league in the past for providing charter flights for its players.
Under the new policy, less than half of the league’s teams will fly private charter between the beginning of the season and the start of the postseason. Stewart and the Liberty will take just one charter flight during the five-month regular season.
“Well, I’ll take the one charter,” Stewart told Insider when asked about the change to the policy during a preseason press conference in New York.
“The whole thing behind it is, we want to get to a point in the WNBA where our first response to a question is not a no,” she continued. “It’s a yes, maybe. Or yes, and.”
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert has estimated that it would take about $20 million per year minimum to fund charter flights each year. She has noted that it’s important to take into account the “long-term growth” of the league.
“This is something we’ve been working on since, I want to say since I’ve come to the league, but certainly hard in the last year,” Engelbert said. “The transformation of the league is happening, and it’s working. I know a lot of people want instantaneous improvement and change. I want that, too, but as I know growing a business does take patience and time, and the transformation is happening.”
Still, sometimes it feels like that transformation isn’t happening quick enough to take advantage of the women’s sports boom. The league has also received criticism for its snail-like pace on expansion while the NWSL has added three teams in the last four years and plans to add four more in the next three.
For Stewart and other WNBA players, both expansion and improved travel conditions are among the most important points when it comes to improving the league.
“We want to be great on the court and sometimes these places we’re going don’t all have direct flights, or we don’t all have great seats,” Stewart said. “So it’s a part of raising the needle, setting the standard.”
“Hopefully we’ll have a little bit more than what we have now for next year.”