The WNBA’s travel problems carried over into the 2022 season. Several players criticized the league for refusing to arrange or even allow charter flights.
Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud took to Twitter to draw attention to the problem after airlines dropped mandates for masks in April.
“On commercial flights, trying to have a Covid-free season…while being surrounded by random people not wearing masks,” Cloud wrote.
I just want you to know that we are still flying comfortably + even after the mask authorization has been lifted. So yes. On commercial flights, in an effort to have a covid-free season… While you are surrounded by random people who are not wearing masks pic.twitter.com/QzC5ii3PVO
– Natasha Cloud (@T_Cloud4) April 23, 2022
This week, Cloud missed Tuesday’s Mystics game against the Las Vegas Aces after entering the league’s health and safety protocols. I took to Twitter to call the WNBA again.
“Cheer the WNBA to fly us commercial during the pandemic. (And no mask mandates),” she wrote.
She also spoke about the politics around her Instagram stories, writing that she goes to training and games but heads straight home after that and hasn’t been out for “months”.
“Fly commercial next to a random – people without a mask… COVID,” she said. “Where does player safety come first? I’m doing my part.”
In a later story, she wrote that “the way we travel makes it nearly impossible” to avoid COVID.
But health and safety issues aren’t the only concerns players have raised regarding the league’s travel policies.
Aces’ Kelsey Bloom said after the team’s 89-76 loss to Washington that a full day of travel left her exhausted.
“I think I’m the best conditional player in this league, respectfully, and I feel like playing this kind of game against Seattle.” [on Sunday night], and then for a five-and-a-half hour late flight, cross-country, and get up and play the next day—I mean, I was tired today,” Bloom said. “If you ever watch me play, I can go all day. So I don’t think it’s necessarily conditioning because it’s just setting up the schedule.
“Let’s be real, I mean, I’m not here to blame a charter flight for our loss, but usually the team flies that night and spends that whole day resting and you put your legs back under you and then go play the next day. So you know these little things make a difference. We hope to be on our way.”
An article published by The Athletic in 2019 detailed the many problems players and coaches encounter while flying.
Earlier this season, Diamond DeShields raised the issue of some players being too tall to fly a coach — even in the premium economy seats. She has shown in a video on social media how much space for her legs she is 6ft 1 in.
I’m glad there’s no one in the seat next to me because we’re going to fight for this leg room, do you hear me pic.twitter.com/7BEZPnxBLB
– Diamond Shields (@diamonddoesit1) May 6 2022
Some players choose to spend money out of their pockets to upgrade their seats. Liz Campage told the Los Angeles Times that she spends about $5,000 to $8,000 of her own money each year to upgrade to First Class.
“I don’t sit in the exit row,” Campag said. “If you’re under 6-5, you’re fine. But guys like me and Britney [Griner]This will come out of our pockets.”
In 2021, he was among the league’s tallest players: Campag (6ft-8), Greiner (6ft-9) and Bernadette Hatter (6ft-10).
Sparks will be on the road for eight out of 11 games in May and will have to deal with moving around in airports and planes while also trying not to catch COVID-19.
“Personally, I think airports are the dirtiest places in the world,” Campag said. “And the fact that we are in [them] Every two days, when there are owners who want us to travel by private jet? And the university literally doesn’t allow that? It’s crazy for me.”
In March, Commissioner Kathy Engelbert said the league’s more than $20 million per season cost of charter flights isn’t something she feels the league can handle.
However, New York Liberty owner Joe Tsai said his team had found a way to get compensation for charter flights for every team in the league for three years — a claim that the NBA has refuted. The team was fined $500,000 last season for chartering flights during the second half of the 2021 season and other rule violations.
During last year’s WNBA Finals, the league chartered flights to Chicago Sky and Phoenix Mercury between games 2 and 3.