Caitlin Clark’s Dallas arrival brings WNBA’s often disagreeable private flight policy back to spotlight

Everyday passengers shared a commercial flight with Clark and the Indiana Fever Thursday. The WNBA heavily relies on commercial flights for in-season away games.

DALLAS, Texas — On Thursday, Caitlin Clark experienced firsthand what WNBA players and allies have been complaining about for years: sharing airspace with the public to and from contests. 

She and her teammates with the Indiana Fever landed at DFW International Airport late Thursday afternoon, ahead of their sold-out pre-season matchup against the Dallas Wings.

Clark just inked a reported $28 million endorsement deal with Nike, went No. 1 in the WNBA draft, and became the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer in college basketball history with 3,685 career points before all that–yet she’s going to have to fly commercial for much of the season. 

The WNBA heavily relies on commercial flights to get teams to and from in-season away games. In fact, chartered or private flights are prohibited in the collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union unless they are in the postseason or select regular season games where teams have back-to-back contests on the schedule.

The WNBA or The Women’s National Basketball Players Association can opt out of that agreement next year. 

The league’s commissioner has said before that the league doesn’t have enough capital for every team to fly private, and teams are prevented from funding flights themselves because the WNBA sees it as a competitive advantage. 

WFAA was in the terminal when Clark landed–she was surrounded by her teammates and added security. This is likely the first time Clark has flown commercial to play a basketball game since her meteoric rise as a player. Her collegiate team, Iowa, chartered flights when traveling. 

The Fever has publicly said that they are beefing up security around Clark because she’ll be traversing airports throughout the season. 

Clark didn’t warm up to WFAA’s camera at the airport, but did touch on the subject at a press conference before leaving Indianapolis. 

“It will be an adjustment, but it is what it is. I’m sure that everyone would always say they would love to fly charter. It would help a lot of problems, but I think the Fever organization has done a good job getting out ahead of things; there’s a lot of security traveling with us. It’s not like we’re the odd man out here — everybody has to navigate it, and it’s going to cause some problems due to the popularity continuing to grow, but at the same time, that’s a positive thing, too. You want people to be excited about our game.” 

People were excited to see Clark. Passengers came off the plane, telling WFAA how cool it was for her to walk down the aisle before taking off. 

“I was on the aisle, and she was on the window of my row,” passenger John Lawrence said. “My son-in-law is a huge basketball fan, and he’ll be thrilled and jealous I got to see her on the plane.” 

Stephanie Webb is a club basketball coach in Keller and saw Clark doing some promo work in downtown Indianapolis while having dinner.

“I was telling my husband I think she’s following me!” Webb said with a laugh. “She’s brought the sport to light. Little girls want to play more because she’s playing.” 

The Dallas Wings told WFAA they’re doing security like they usually would at each game, but the Fever have said they’ll be increasing their on-court security.

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