He cares. He really does. George W. Bush cares about your flights. The president, beset with plummeting approval ratings and an obstreperous Congress, has taken a step to get involved in the nation’s sprawling air-traffic control mess. As the nation’s busiest travel season looms with the Thanksgiving holiday, W announced that he had ordered the Defense Department to open restricted airspace (like this area near Norfolk, VA) between Maine and Florida to commercial airline flights during the five-day holiday next week, when 27 million are expected to fly to and from family feasts, almost always on excessive amounts of turkey. He also took to the stage with Transport Secretary Mary Peters to announce other steps in an unusually high-profile White House press conference, including a promise to speed up new rules that would give involuntarily ‘bumped’ flyers more compensation, raise the pay-out rules for lost luggage and make airline on-time reports more accurate.
While many of these steps have been pending, it is certainly considered unusual for a president to get as involved as he has. The White House is as aware as the airlines are of just how bad last summer was – the 'Summer from Hell' - and they don’t want the Thanksgiving holiday to be the ‘Turkey Day from Hell’. But the president has also come out for a something the airlines don’t want: congestion pricing. The airlines hate this idea, but some smart people think this variable pricing could work - as it has on roads in some major urban areas. You can read his press conference here and listen to a radio discussion of it here.