Fever travel troubles bring attention to life on the road in the WNBA
INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – The Indiana Fever (5-6) dealt with major travel troubles coming home from Sunday night’s game in Seattle.
A flight delay, plane change, missed connection and long bus ride all became part of the 22-hour adventure, just a day before a home game with the Minnesota Lynx.
Fever forward Natalie Achonwa scored seven points in the Fever’s 65-61 loss to the Storm. Then she posted double figures on Twitter sharing the Fever’s travel troubles getting back to Indy from Seattle.
A 10:30 p.m. Delta commercial flight to Atlanta was delayed. After boarding, a mechanical issue forced the team off the plane.
The Fever boarded a new plane just before 1 a.m. but obviously missed their connection. With no chance of finding 17 airplane seats on a Monday morning in Atlanta, the team opted for an eight-hour bus ride back to Indy.
“As the next kind of complication came, we just kind of laughed,” said Achonwa, in her fifth season with the Indiana Fever. “We’re like, ‘Of course. This is how it goes.’ But I think it was such a shock because the world kind of got a glimpse at our daily life and sometimes travel – for some teams more frequently than others the issues that we have on the road.”
The bus required a driver change. Then the new driver stopped for a suspected an engine problem. Achonwa said she slept about four hours on the flight, plus short naps on the bus during the 22-hour trip. The team finally arrived at Bankers Life Fieldhouse about 8 p.m. Monday.
“If I was just going to work today, I’d be fine with getting the rest that I had,” said Achonwa after Tuesday morning shootaround. “But in order to compete at an elite level with the best in the world night after night, there’s a certain level of rest, certain level of recovery, certain level of quality food that you’re putting in your body that sometimes isn’t available when you have situations or experiences like we did yesterday.”
WNBA players hope for some travel considerations in the next collective bargaining agreement to enhance player health and safety.
“Are there other avenues that we can explore to improve the quality of our travel, to improve the recovery timing between games?” asked Achonwa. “There’s a lot of things that go into that bucket. But making travel easier would, of course, help.”
Tuesday night is the only Fever home game during a three-week stretch. The Fever are right back on the road with commercial flights to games Friday in Phoenix and Saturday in Las Vegas.
Private flights are actually prohibited in the WNBA by the collective bargaining agreement. If some teams traveled charter or on a team plane, that would be considered a competitive advantage that is not allowed.
For Achonwa, she traveled much better when she was in college at Notre Dame than she does as a professional.
Fever management will not and cannot talk about the travel issue because it will be part of upcoming league negotiations with the players.
The players opted out of the WNBA collective bargaining agreement in favor of reaching a new deal after this season.
Achonwa’s tale was featured as a Twitter Moment on the social media platform Monday: