Shhhh! Bush Did Something That Worked

     Thanksgiving air travel went well; in fact it went so well it prompted CNN anchor Rob Marciano to exclaim, “Maybe the media sufficiently scared everybody.”

     CNN’s “American Morning” and NBC’s “Nightly News” reported the good news on Thanksgiving air travel, with CNN’s Kiran Chetry saying it “wasn’t so bad” and NBC’s Amy Robach calling it a “relatively easy experience.”

     But both broadcasts forgot the most important detail: Military air space opened up by President Bush along the East Coast.

     ABC’s “World News Sunday,” gave credit where credit was due though – but left out a key point.

     “Those express lanes, allowing flights to detour through military air space along the East Coast also worked,” said ABC’s Jeremy Hubbard, forgetting to mention that Bush had authorized the air traffic change.

     Hubbard also pointed out that good weather was a factor in the easy air travel, but other news outlets picked up on how airlines prepared for the holiday.

     "This is the most pro-active I have ever seen airlines going into a holiday season,” Terry Trippler, an airline expert told Reuters. Trippler also said airlines hired extra baggage handlers, ticket counter staffers, gate agents and prepared further by having extra planes and crews on hand.

     But, there were skeptics after the president unveiled his plan November 15.

     USA Today wrote November 20 that, “aviation experts and the union representing air-traffic controllers [said] the plan will have little or no impact during the next 12 days, the Thanksgiving travel crunch.”

     As the Business & Media Institute pointed out on August 29, while the networks were quick to blame airlines and CEOs for flight delays, the media were not as willing to blame the government-run air traffic system – a common theme that ran through 2007.

     “And new airline industry numbers out today show that while millions of passengers suffer through record delays, cancellations and lost baggage – airline profits have been soaring,” ABC “World News” anchor Charles Gibson said September 17.

     CBS’s August 12 story hit hard at airline performance after more than 20,000 passengers at Los Angeles International Airport were stranded due to a U.S. Customs computer glitch. Reporter Randall Pinkston used that nightmare to charge that the airlines should be providing better service to passengers – citing Northwest Airlines’ $2 billion profit.

     The president’s plan to open up military air space was temporary and aviation experts are warning that flight delays will occur in the future unless some more permanent solutions are implemented.

     Wired magazine highlighted the problems with the air traffic control system in October saying, “Built on World War II technology, the system is showing its age. Planes move quickly, and radar takes anywhere from three to 12 seconds to accurately read a position.”

     Nevertheless, the new satellite system that will allow planes to fly closer together will take more than a decade to be operational.

     The Reason Foundation wrote about its skepticism of the new satellite system in September saying that the Air Traffic Organization has already had problems keeping previous technology-replacement projects under wraps, “most of which are still over budget, behind schedule, and poorly managed.”

     “NextGen is a far more high-risk endeavor than those existing projects,” a group of nine leading aviation experts wrote. “They have been promised major increases in ATC productivity since the early 1980s—yet have seen no such increases, despite the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars.”