Networks: Bashing Airlines Is Just the Ticket

According to the networks, the skies have been unfriendly to fly this summer and the airlines are to blame.

Journalists have been quick to point the finger at business when the problems can easily be pegged to an outmoded computer system – owned and operated by the U.S. government.

“One of the knocks on JetBlue following this Valentine’s Day situation was that the airline had grown too big too fast,” Matt Lauer said to JetBlue’s CEO on August 20 “Today.”

In another CEO interview on “Today” Natalie Morales went after Northwest Airlines Doug Steenland on August 15:

“Well, let me ask you what the viewers are asking: ‘Why can’t this management admit’ that ‘they made errors and stop blaming the short staffing, poor employee morale, flight cancellations, and operational problems on the employees, especially’ the ‘pilots’?”

The hot summer has been not so hot for media coverage of the airline industry. In a month of coverage (July 27 – August 28) ABC, CBS and NBC have aired at least 21 stories highly critical of the airlines including attacks on American Airlines, Northwest, Southwest and JetBlue. Few stories made the connection to the failing air traffic control system.

Only one airline received consistently positive attention during that time: Virgin Airlines owned by global warming philanthropist Sir Richard Branson. That airline was fawned over by NBC's Meredith Vieira and Ann Curry on August 8.

After "Today" reported the launch of Sir Richard Branson's latest venture, Virgin America, Meredith Vieira declared:

“Love Virgin Atlantic, so I think we’re going to enjoy this one, as well.”

Ann Curry was just as enthusiastic saying, “Let’s take it to China.”

But the airlines may not be to blame for all flight problems. The Boyd Group, an aviation consulting company, faults the government-run Federal Aviation Administration and air traffic control (ATC) system.

The main cause of delays is the decades-long inability of the FAA to construct an ATC system that meets the demands of the air transportation system. The ATC system is not a static set-piece to which we must adjust our aviation system. Instead, it is a vital part of our infrastructure which the FAA has repeatedly failed to keep updated,” states the Boyd Group Web site.

The Boyd Group continued: “The FAA has consistently wasted billions over the past 25 years, often on programs that only get so far and are then cancelled.”Despite that, some in the media want even more government intervention.

On August 20, NBC “Today” host Matt Lauer asked JetBlue’s CEO Dave Barger “how would you feel about Washington getting involved [by passing a passenger’s bill of rights]?”

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.