Passing the buck

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While the airline industry so far has managed to stave off any serious federal hand-tying over passenger rights, its lobbying skills have been unable to dent public dissatisfaction. It's logical then that buck-passing would be the next step in quelling all the kvetching.

United tried turning the blame for one of passengers' biggest pet peeves, late departures, back on its customers, thereby turning a perfectly fine program aimed at closing aircraft doors five minutes prior to scheduled departure into a public relations nightmare.

Last week United changed its tack, pinning the onus for rampant delays on the FAA. At a Chicago meeting on Thursday, UAL chairman Jim Goodwin gave the FAA a good hiding, blaming the airlines' woes on an inefficient air traffic control system. The new strategy is smart poker, as the FAA seems to have hit a run of terrible luck in the form of lightning strikes, power failures and a mess of software malfunctions.

The FAA, in need of its own scapegoat, blames Mother Nature for its problems, citing bad weather as the cause of 75 percent of all delays. I wonder who Mother Nature will decide to leave holding the bag.

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