USC star A’ja Wilson calls out WNBA after Las Vegas Aces flight delays

Former South Carolina women’s basketball star A’ja Wilson is fired up about the opportunity to play another game in Colonial Life Arena this weekend.

But she wasn’t thrilled with the significant flight delays that she and the rest of the Las Vegas Aces, the defending back-to-back WNBA champions, experienced while traveling to Columbia ahead of their Saturday preseason game at CLA.

According to social media posts from Wilson and other members of the Aces, Las Vegas’ commercial flight from Washington, DC to Columbia was delayed at least three hours on Thursday night, and the team didn’t leave for South Carolina until roughly 1 a.m. A flight from DC to Columbia takes roughly 90 minutes.

The drive, in comparison, takes about 7.5 hours.

“these delays are OD we could have driven from Washington to Columbia at this point …” Wilson said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) at 10:51 p.m. Thursday.

Ahead of their Saturday preseason game against the Puerto Rico National Team at Colonial Life Arena, the Aces made a stop at the nation’s capital on Thursday, where President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris honored them at the White House for their 2023 WNBA championship.

But, according to posts from Wilson and fellow Aces player Chelsea Gray, the team’s flight from DC to Columbia was delayed three hours from its scheduled evening departure time and didn’t leave for Columbia until slightly past 1 a.m.

The Las Vegas contingent arrived safely in Columbia late Thursday night, and the flight delay will not affect the Aces’ Saturday preseason game at 1 p.m. But it’s already altered their plans for Friday.

According to a Friday morning media advisory, the Aces have pushed back their scheduled practice and media availabilities on Friday from the early afternoon to late afternoon after a “two-plus hour travel travel day” getting out of Washington, DC.

The same media advisory said the Aces’ flight was delayed because their plane did not have a pilot ready and available at the previous departure time.

Wilson and Gray also both pointed out the irony of their flight delay, considering the WNBA announced earlier Thursday that it would “phase in” a league-wide charter flight program for its 12 teams.

The initiative, primarily sponsored by Delta, is for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. WNBA players and their union have been pushing for a private charter flight program (similar to the ones all NBA teams have) for years, citing various issues including recovery time and player safety in public spaces.

The league is more popular than ever in its 28th season and, with a number of talented rookies including Iowa star Caitlin Clark joining the WNBA this year, is committing $50 million over the next two years for a charter flight program.

But Gray, the Aces guard, said in a post that Las Vegas was “not approved to use a charter for the White House visit” by the league, which regulates that usage and has fined teams in the past for using charter flights without permission.

Thursday was a particularly rough commercial travel day, too, following a round of inclement weather including heavy storms and tornadoes in the southeast United States. According to the website FlightAware, there were 24,073 flight delays worldwide and 9,114 in the United States on Thursday (plus 1,293 cancellations and 304 in the US).

Specific to Washington, DC, Reagan National Airport had 276 delays and four cancellations, Washington Dulles International Airport had 126 delays and seven cancellations and Baltimore-Washington International Airport had 240 delays and one cancellation.

“Timing...” Gray said in her post.

Wilson added of the WNBA’s charter flight program: “Wish it started right after the article came out.”