Wednesday, April 9, 2008

We know why you don't fly

Via Kevin Drum, Jon Stewart:
With this administration, if a passenger blows up a plane, it's a failure in the war on terror. But if the plane just blows up on its own — eh, it's the market self-regulating.
Funny, but obviously untrue. After all, American Airlines has canceled more than 1500 flights over the past two days, as they inspect their MD-80 airplanes - "At issue is how cords have been used to secure bundles of wires in the plane's wheel wells." An FAA inspector apparently found some problem on Monday, and, not wanting to incur an FAA penalty, grounded all those planes.

What I find interesting is the corporate spin, the tap dance to assure everyone that this is just a minor requirement, nothing that affects safety. AA's spokeswoman was on TV last night to let us know that this was not an actual issue that puts people at risk, just a minor compliance matter. From AA's website:
Additional inspections of our MD-80 fleet are being conducted to ensure precise and complete compliance with the FAA's directive related to wiring in the aircraft's wheel wells. Please be assured that safety of our customers is, and always will be, American's first priority.
In other words, it's just the FAA being picky, nothing bad, not to worry.

If that's true, why did they have to pull all the planes out of service immediately? Couldn't they have staged these re-inspections over several days, doing them at night when the fleet is pretty much idle? Why would they take the risk of ticking off thousands of travelers for a minor look-see?

Two answers present themselves to the last question. One is that AA simply doesn't care about serving its customers, perhaps feeling that they have no credible alternative. The other is that the problem is far more acute than they're letting on. I'd put up a click poll, except that I suspect the answer is, "Both."

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