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WNBA’s playoff charter program doesn’t actually include all fights

Odyssey Sims of the Dallas Wings waits in an airport in 2016. (Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA’s promise of charter flights for “all postseason games” comes with a major asterisk, as teams learned this week.

As reported by The Next’s Howard Megdal, as many as six WNBA teams may have to take a commercial flight during the playoffs, according to an internal memo on postseason travel distributed to teams this week.

After each series, each team will be able to use one charter flight before the next round. So if a team ends one series on the road, then starts the next series on the road, that team has three choices:

  • Take a charter flight home, then take a commercial flight to the next round.
  • Take a commercial flight home, then take a charter flight to the next round.
  • Take a charter flight directly to the next round. (But this could mean a long break between rounds spent in a visiting city.)

Take the Washington Mystics, who would hold the No. 5 seed if the season ended today. If the Mystics swept the No. 4 seed Dallas Wings in the best-of-three first round in Dallas, the Mystics could take a charter flight directly to Las Vegas for their next series against the Aces. But the Mystics could face a long layoff between rounds, so if they instead chose to take a charter flight back to Washington, they would have to take a commercial flight across the country for their semifinal series.

When the WNBA unveiled its expanded charter flight program before the start of the season, it said the program would include flights for “all postseason games beginning with the start of 2023 WNBA Playoffs through the WNBA Finals.”

The WNBA is footing the bill for the flights in the program, with an estimated cost of $4.5 million for the 2023 season. But it has not offered teams the option to pay for additional charter flights during the postseason if needed.

In an ESPN survey of 34 players, 18 ranked travel as the league’s biggest issue. And playoff travel drama likely won’t change players’ minds.

“It’s crazy that I’ve been here for 14 years and nothing much has changed about the travel,” Connecticut Sun forward DeWanna Bonner told ESPN. “Hopefully within the next couple years it gets better, because I definitely think it can add some longevity to everybody’s career.”