Layover, little seating and security lines: A day with avid gamers on a WNBA commercial flight

Layover, little seating and security lines: A day with avid gamers on a WNBA commercial flight

Flaunt Weeekly Breanna Stewart knew the save she wished to pass. Somebody used to be in her method. For the length of video games, that’s no longer an ache for the WNBA MVP. Whereas boarding a commercial flight, it’s a bit trickier.

On a new connecting flight carrying the Recent York Liberty from Atlanta to Las Vegas, Stewart had to demand a person in the aisle seat to win up briefly so she would possibly well well also contort her 6-foot-4 frame by the row sooner than settling in her window seat because the passengers in line in the support of her patiently waited. The man with courtesy complied, perchance unaware that undoubtedly one of many splendid avid gamers in the girls folk’s recreation shall be sharing his overhead bin residence for the next four hours.

Such is the blueprint in which it works for WNBA avid gamers. When flying, they’re factual love everybody else.

The Related Press traveled final week with Recent York and acquired a firsthand stare upon the experience. For the length of their depraved-country scuttle, the Liberty won at Connecticut on Tuesday night time, perceived to speed out of gas in a lopsided blowout loss at Las Vegas on Thursday and beat Seattle 81-66 on Sunday after just a few days off.

Stepping round of us to win to her seat used to be segment of a 13-hour day Wednesday for Stewart on the 2d leg of the aspect toll road day out.

“It used to be an early day. Drop your baggage off, win on the bus to pass to the airport to transfer to Atlanta to win to Vegas,” Stewart told AP on a shuttle to Las Vegas baggage issue. “I’m drained.”

The prolonged day started round 6:30 a.m. with Stewart dragging her bags down to the resort lobby in Connecticut. The general Liberty’s 65 checked baggage had to be catalogued and loaded on a bus from Uncasville to Hartford for the personnel’s 2,700-mile flight to Las Vegas — at the side of a immediate layover in Atlanta.

Players and workers of the Recent York Liberty wait to board buses at Harry Reid Global Airport on June 28, 2023, in Las Vegas. (John Locher/AP)

Stewart and her teammates don’t fly economy, however the seats are serene tight.

Players are in comfort seats or economy-plus to be particular that extra leg room, per the collective bargaining settlement. That helps, but taller avid gamers love Stewart and her 6-6 teammate Jonquel Jones serene rating themselves in tight areas in most cases. To not mention 6-10 Han Xu, who wasn’t on the aspect toll road day out because she used to be taking half in with the Chinese language nationwide personnel in the Asia Cup.

Now they would possibly be able to beef up to top quality — on their appreciate dimes.

“Those seats are little. I attempted to win upgraded to top quality to catch extra room however the flight used to be elephantine,” acknowledged Jones, who had to duck to even win on the plane. “It’s in no blueprint a grand method for us to breeze that method with a recreation on Tuesday and then one other recreation Thursday.”

Stewart, a Diamond Medallion member on Delta, used to be upgraded to top quality for the day out from Hartford to Atlanta resulting from her station on the airline. She wasn’t so lucky on the 2d segment of the day out — the four-plus hour flight from Atlanta to Las Vegas.

There are just a few perks for avid gamers, but even some of those catch a collect.

Once Recent York’s 33-person breeze occasion received to Bradley Airport in Connecticut, it used to be a seamless route of with the Liberty operations workers efficiently unloading the bus in no longer up to 3 minutes. A Delta representative met them with the complete obtain tags and tickets.

Recent York Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu, heart, waits to fight by the security line with the personnel’s manager of basketball operations Micaela Reese in the support of her at Bradley Airport in Hartford, Conn., on June 25, 2023. (Doug Feinberg/AP)

With tickets in hand, avid gamers headed straight to security — but right here’s the collect: Although most had either TSA precheck or Positive station, international-born avid gamers don’t catch that possibility.

Jones, who’s from the Bahamas, and Marine Johannes, who’s French, veritably want to fight by traditional security lines. Usually they win lucky, because the pair did Wednesday, as soon as they had been escorted by the precedence line by a Delta representative.

The personnel spent about 50 minutes in the Connecticut airport waiting to board a flight to Atlanta. Bradley isn’t a unquestionably busy airport and the complete avid gamers had been in a position to sit down down again — even Stewart, who won four nationwide championships in college at nearby UConn. Players sat quietly by themselves, checking cell phones or taking designate of tune while others chatted with teammates.

Their flights had been on time regardless of thunderstorms wreaking havoc on air breeze final week but if there had been any cancellations, Recent York had its long-established backup plot.

The buses that transported the personnel from Mohegan Solar stayed at the Connecticut airport except the Liberty’s plane took off. Assistant overall manager Ohemaa Nyanin acknowledged it’s a overall put together, at the side of that if something had long gone tainted the Liberty would catch bused support to Recent York the save there catch been extra flight alternate strategies.

After the two 1/2-hour flight to Atlanta, there used to be a immediate layover for his or her connecting flight. Players went to take hold of a immediate cup of coffee or some meals for the longer leg of the day out.

It helped that the personnel didn’t want to inch by the busy Atlanta airport for the connecting flight. It used to be handiest one gate over from the one the save they landed.

Once the personnel finally arrived in Las Vegas virtually 12 hours after shedding their baggage at that Connecticut resort lobby, the avid gamers boarded a waiting bus while the workers headed for bags issue to be particular all 65 baggage made it to Nevada.

“We factual allow them to be and discontinue whatever they wish,” coach Sandy Brondello acknowledged of plans for the avid gamers. “Just a few of them peek film, some of them factual sleep.”

Airport baggage handlers and Recent York Liberty workers relieve stack baggage at Harry Reid Global Airport on June 28, 2023. (John Locher/AP)

Recent York Liberty’s Breanna Stewart waits for coffee after touring for most of the day at Harry Reid Global Airport while touring with the personnel on June 28, 2023, in Las Vegas. (John Locher/AP)

The wear-and-spin on avid gamers’ bodies is one motive they’ve lobbied for constitution flights, with Recent York paying a hefty label for ignoring the breeze restrictions. The Liberty received a WNBA-file $500,000 magnificent final year for using chartered flights in 2021 for the length of the 2d half of that season.

On the opposite hand, the league has eased its stance this season, allowing teams that catch scheduled video games on support-to-support nights to make exhaust of constitution flights. The league has acknowledged in the past it would possibly probably well well label about $25 million to constitution for the complete season or roughly $2 million per personnel.

The WNBA is also allowing Mercury heart Brittney Griner to make exhaust of constitution flights following her highly publicized arrest in Russia. She did breeze commercially with the personnel final month and the 6-9 All-Famous person used to be pressured by a social media provocateur for the length of an incident in Dallas.

The Liberty, love many WNBA teams, breeze with security. For the length of Recent York’s day out to Las Vegas, handiest one fan got right here up and asked for a photograph with guard Sabrina Ionescu.

Players catch was extra guarded as their megastar station continues to upward push.

“I’ve had guys near up and trash-talk about me about how they would possibly well well also beat me one-on-one,” Las Vegas Aces guard Chelsea Gray acknowledged. “Repeatedly of us are nice, but which you would possibly’t be too careful lately.”

Stewart believes the Liberty group is doing what it would possibly perchance to make breeze as easy as imaginable for the avid gamers, but with the health and security of avid gamers at likelihood, she thinks extra desires to be performed.

“I don’t catch we’re asking something crazy,” Stewart acknowledged. “We want to continue to be our simplest, and realizing that every the prehab and rehab and lifting and stuff we discontinue for our bodies is factual as equally main because the tactic that we breeze and the facility to stretch our legs.”

She added avid gamers want to “be particular we’re no longer getting swollen from flying because that is a thing.”

One consolation for the Liberty: This used to be their handiest aspect toll road day out with a connecting flight.


  • 12:30 p.m. Thirty-three person breeze occasion boarded buses in Recent York sure for Mohegan Solar in Uncasville, Connecticut, for Tuesday night time recreation against the Solar
  • 4 p.m. Liberty contingent arrives at Mohegan


  • 11 a.m. Team participates in shootaround to put together for Tuesday night time’s recreation
  • 7 p.m. Game against Connecticut guidelines off
  • 9 p.m. Game ends against Connecticut, with Recent York notching an 89-81 victory in the first recreation of the aspect toll road day out


  • 6:30 a.m. Players topple off their baggage in the lobby of Connecticut resort to be sent to the airport for day out to Las Vegas
  • 6:45 a.m. Liberty operations workers loads up the bus and heads to Hartford airport
  • 8:15 a.m. Players take hold of bus for hour-prolonged day out to airport
  • 11 a.m. Flight departs Hartford sure for Atlanta
  • 1 p.m. Flight lands in Atlanta and avid gamers catch 40-minute window to win meals sooner than their connection is scheduled to recede
  • 2 p.m. Connecting flight departs Atlanta for Las Vegas
  • 6 p.m. Team lands in Las Vegas and operations workers waits on bus for bags to be loaded as avid gamers take hold of one other bus to personnel resort
  • 7:30 p.m. Team checks into resort in Las Vegas


  • 2 p.m. Team has shootaround to put together for Las Vegas recreation
  • 10 p.m. Game against Aces guidelines off
  • 12 a.m. Game 2 of the aspect toll road day out ends, Liberty lose 98-81 to the Aces