‘It changes everything.’ Indiana Fever’s Caitlin Clark expressed surprise at the WNBA’s new announcement

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Fever coach Christie Sides remembers one specific time she and her team got caught up in commercial airline troubles.

Really, she said, she tries to suppress it.

“I don’t remember (what airport),” Sides said. “I was trying to block that one out.”

Back when she was an assistant coach for the Chicago Sky between 2011-16, the team was trying to make the second game of a back-to-back. But the plane was delayed. Then delayed again.

And again. Finally, canceled. The team, coaches and support staff had to sleep in the airport while waiting for a 6 a.m. flight. Then, they played a game that night.

But now, with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert saying the league will start to use full charter flights for all 12 teams this season, commercial flight issues will be a thing of the past.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - MAY 03: Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever looks on from the bench while playing the Dallas Wings during a pre season game at College Park Center on May 03, 2024 in Arlington, Texas.

“It is incredible,” Sides said. “I just sent a message out to the players last night when the news hit, just that this is what they deserve. They deserve this, and it changes everything.

It changes their rest, it changes their rehab… Instead of getting up at like, early in the morning to get back here, then they don’t have to practice at four o’clock, five o’clock in the evening. It changes everything.”

With these new charter flights, the only thing they’ll be losing out on is airline miles.

“I guess I’ll have to book some extra flights,” Fever center Aliyah Boston joked.

The league doesn’t have a specific timeline yet for when charter flights will be available for all 12 teams.

Engelbert said the program will be implemented “as soon as we can logistically get planes in places,” but added it could take up to a couple weeks or a month, meaning teams will likely start the regular season flying commercially.

The Fever flew commercially from Indianapolis International Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth for their preseason game against the Dallas Wings last week, and they were met with fans wanting signatures and media taking videos.

“There were people (in the airport) like ‘Oh my gosh, can we get signatures, can we get your signatures?'” Boston said. “And obviously you guys saw people like following us with a camera.

But I mean, that’s just what it is, we understand. So I’m really glad that we’re taking these precautions, especially with charter.”

Fever rookie sensation Caitlin Clark has been the main reason for a lot of the media attention the Fever have been getting recently.

Pacers Sports & Entertainment beefed up its security during Fever travel because of Clark’s popularity, and she was the subject of most of the videos about the Fever’s arrival in Dallas.

Now, Clark and the Fever will have more privacy when they travel. And in the 27th year of the WNBA, it’s been a long time coming.

“I’m just super excited for the players who have been in this league for a really long time and have really deserved this for years and years and years,” Clark said.

“I’m just excited, I’m thankful, at whatever point that it is, that it happens. It’ll be great for us, it’ll make recovery easier, it’ll make travel easier, it just makes life a lot easier for a lot of people… I’m just very fortunate to come to this league and have this opportunity the first year that I’m here.”

Boston spent her rookie season flying to games commercially — a stark change from her four years at South Carolina, where she and the Gamecocks flew charter to every game.

For the second-year center, who stands at 6-4, flying charter isn’t only about security. It’s about being able to stretch out on planes, get back home after games, and have extra time to rest.

“You play your game, you get back on that plane, and you get to sleep in your own bed,” Boston said. “That’s really what you know, we’ve been used to in college. So coming here and making that change, you know, is going to be great for us.”

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