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Cathy Engelbert says WNBA will provide charter flights for Finals

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert talks to the media before the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game on July 10, 2022 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced plans for an upgraded WNBA Finals experience before the All-Star Game in Chicago on Sunday.

“For the WNBA Finals, we’re going to provide charter flights to our players,” Engelbert told reporters. “And in the spirit of finding other ways to compensate our players, we’re planning to increase the postseason bonus pools by almost 50 percent to a half-million dollars.”

Charter flights have been a major topic of conversation among WNBA players, with Diana Taurasi and Breanna Stewart joining the voices criticizing the league’s use of commercial flights this season.

“It’s a shame that we are still talking about this 25 years later when there are big pockets out there that can change this thing, but you know, we’re just women,” Taurasi said during a press conference in May.

In March, Engelbert told ESPN that charter flights would “jeopardize the financial health of the league.”

The move to provide charter flights for the WNBA Finals, however, isn’t unprecedented. The Chicago Sky and Phoenix Mercury flew private during the 2021 WNBA Finals between Game 2 and Game 3, as one day separated the contests and the teams were traveling between Pacific Time and Central Time.

New York Liberty owner Joe Tsai has expressed interest in securing charter jets for his team while addressing the broader travel issues in the WNBA, but he has been hamstrung by the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

The CBA, signed in 2020, stipulates that teams must fly commercial to level the playing field among owners with varying financial circumstances.