Monday Insight – July 3, 2023

The Media:
Another Major Co-Conspirator In The Air Meltdown

The major meltdown of the air transportation system last week, primarily in the Northeast, particularly affected carriers with high concentrations of operations in the region – JetBlue and United. As a result, the choke spread across the nation as airliners got mired in the operational quicksand caused by an incompetent ATC system.

When double-digit percentages of departures and arrivals are restricted on the East Coast, it affects the entire nation.

United: Telling It Like It Is. The CEO of United stood up and pointed out that the weather situation itself was not extraordinary in comparison to those in the past. It was the continuing and deepening collapse in the air traffic control system, particularly due to lack of staffing, that flummoxed millions of passengers across the nation.

The Media: Telling Like Buttigieg Says It Is. In response, the embarrassing creature that’s sitting in the front office at the DOT fired up his media cronies to get lots and lots of time on the air to refute United’s claims and tout his exemplary performance for America. The M.O. has worked well in the past, and did so here, too. Just toss out the official jive, and the usual network suspects respond like fish tossed at trained seals.

And, it worked. Do a search. The talking heads on the networks just sat there nodding away – resembling glazed donuts, accepting and smiling at everything he babbled out.

Asking for hard details was not on the agenda. Just smile, toss softball questions, thank him profusely for coming on.

The guy could have been selling defective Vega-Matics and gotten away with it.

Actually, he did. ‘Cept the defective product was a lot more than a kitchen appliance. It’s our entire air traffic control system.

The Track Record Is Clear. So Why Doesn’t It Get Covered. Butigieg’s performance over the last two years is a shamble of political nonsense. (Remember, he claims some roads are racist. On-the-fringe crackpot stuff that nobody on the nightly news ever questioned.) So, it’s not a surprise that the media gives the guy a walk with this ATC scandal.

This includes the righteous correspondents who are competing with what’s on the rack at Men’s Wearhouse. The ones who posture themselves as experts. (This is not to imply that there aren’t any truly competent media experts, but they get denigrated by toady colleagues who have less than stellar ethics. On no ethics.)

Pander, Or It’s No More Access. It’s a fact that if the high-level politicians have an experience on the air with less fun than a Tupperware Party, well, they won’t be available to come on the air again anytime soon. They will go to other more friendly channels.

Here’s a revelation, media: when you treat the politicians as being above accountability – as most have done with Buttigieg in this case — you are suborning and encouraging political dishonesty.

You bear some responsibility for the meltdown because the ATC mess has been there for years, and you give the political appointees a walk, with the excuse that “they inherited it.”

They never mention that Buttigieg has been there for two years – long enough to train a lot of controllers. It’s his mess, and the media is being dishonest, allowing the guy to get a walk on it.

Point: a lot of the media is simply his cheering section. By not reporting directly and clearly, the public is misled into thinking that bad, dishonest politicians are actually stand-up guys.

Aviation leaders need to be careful. On one hand they have to play ball with the politicians in charge. On the other, comments like from United are imperative to keep the narrative honest.

Which is hard to do when the reporting doesn’t take it seriously.