10:41 PM

Not the Kind of Press United Wanted

With pressure ramped up recently on the Big Airlines to adhere to FAA inspection requirements, it appears one mega-carrier has taken a pro-active approach. They would have liked to get this all done quietly and with a minimum of press coverage:

This week, United Airlines – the largest U.S. operator of Boeing 777s – decided to ground its fleet of 52 of the wide-body jets to make required checks of the planes' fire-suppression system. United canceled 38 of its 84 daily flights scheduled to be flown with 777s. The inspections come on the heels of a $10.2 million FAA fine proposed against Southwest Airlines Co. on March 6 over missed inspections.
So to avoid the wrath of the FAA, United thought best to pull the plug on their entire fleet of triple sevens...to err on the side of caution. That was a good plan, and this whole thing would have not have made page one of any paper in the country of it weren't for this, reported yesterday on washingtonpost.com:
"The White House press charter that ferries journalists, presidential staff and Secret Service agents whenever the president travels has been grounded. The chartered jumbo jet is one of the 52 Boeing-777 aircraft that United Airlines ordered out of service today until it can inspect them for possible problems with the fire suppression systems in the cargo holds. The jet is currently here in Bucharest, where President Bush is attending a NATO summit that opens tonight."
Cat. Out of bag.

So when this broke across all of the Internets, the "grounded United 777s" story began to grow legs, which is what happens when your airline strands a planeload of traveling JOURNALISTS! So when plan "A" went south, what to do next? Wapo.com explains:
"United is scrambling to find a way to inspect the plane quickly to avoid messing up the president's European trip, possibly by dispatching inspectors here to Bucharest or maybe flying the plane somewhere else for a quick check and sending it right back. Fortunately for everyone, Bush is on the ground here for another couple days before heading to Zagreb, Croatia, on Friday and then Sochi, Russia on Saturday. That should be enough time to get the plane checked out and back ready for service in time for Bush's departure."
A stroll through the comments left today on wapo.com shows the public doesn't have much mercy for these wayward scribes. I will spare you the pummeling the White House Press Corps took on this, and will state – for the record – that they do not deserve it.

I was a real journalist once, and while Sports Editor at the Poe-Dunk Tribune is not exactly covering Baghdad for Reuters, I know that without question, the hardest job in journalism for the past seven years has been that of a White House correspondent. Why? Because you have to get up each morning and trudge into the Briefing Room knowing Bush's Spinner du Jour will look you straight in the eyes and tell you a string of half-truths and fractured fairy tales each more unbelievable then the one before it.

Man, that has to be torture, being Dana Perino's punching bag, day after stinking day. I hope they all get a precious few hours off over there and can wash their sorrows down with some of whatever the local pubs are selling. My guess is that those tankards might be filled with some sort of potato-flavored vodka...just a hunch.

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