'Players deserve it:' Indiana Fever among first in WNBA to get charter plane for road trip

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The Indiana Fever were flying high Monday afternoon.


Ahead of the Fever’s season-opener at Connecticut on Tuesday, they were the first team to fly charter as part of the WNBA’s new program aiming to get all teams flying charter for the 2024 season.

'It changes everything.' Caitlin Clark, Fever react to WNBA move to charter flights

Fever guard Erica Wheeler posted a video of the charter plane on her Instagram story, which included tables for players to sit around, widened seats and ample leg room.

Most of all, it had privacy and a direct route to their location. There are no direct flights from Indianapolis to Hartford, Conn. (the closest airport to Uncasville), so the players, coaches and staff would’ve had to connect through a different airport.

“How exciting was that?” coach Christie Sides said. “That was a big old plane, and the players deserve it. All 144 players, all 12 teams and all these guys deserve to have that. It helps with your recovery, your rehab, and it gives the players also a time to be in a place together where they can hang out, you know, going from city to city.”

The charter flight also meant the team could practice at their own facility Monday morning before leaving for the airport — they likely would have needed to practice in Connecticut following their flight if they flew commercially. The team is also flying back following the game Tuesday night, which will allow them to adequately rest before practicing on Wednesday.

The team found out last week it would be going to and from Connecticut on a charter flight, Sides said, but they haven’t heard anything about their other road games yet this season.

“It makes a huge difference to fly home tonight, and get to practice and get ready for New York tomorrow, when we would normally fly tomorrow and then get back to the gym at three, four o'clock and then have to be there late in the afternoon when they need to be resting,” Sides said. “It makes a huge difference. We're not sure what our next charter travel is, but yeah, it just makes everything a lot smoother and easier for the players.”

The charter flight program, which commissioner Cathy Engelbert said would cost $25 million per season, is being phased into the league, according to a release from the WNBA last week. Indiana was one of two teams to charter to its season-opening game — Minnesota is using a charter flight to go to Seattle this week, as well.

Previously, the WNBA said select teams flying charter would be a competitive advantage, and it fined the New York Liberty $500,000 for using a charter plane in the 2021 season. Now, some teams have the opportunity to fly charter, while others have to fly commercial.

The Liberty are flying commercial for their first two games this season, which includes the May 16 matchup against the Fever. The Chicago Sky are also flying commercially for its first road trip of the season. Chicago Sun-Times reporter Annie Costabile reported that all players were having a town hall with Engelbert this week regarding the charter flights.

“It makes things a lot easier, and it’s nice to get some good sleep on there,” Fever rookie Caitlin Clark said. “It’ll be great once everybody across the league has it, the faster that happens the product on the floor is going to be better for our players across the board. It makes life a lot easier, especially because a lot of times you’re traveling back after a game … it’s a healthier way to travel, and I’m glad we’re on the track of getting it done.”

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana Fever among first WNBA teams to use charter flights on road