1. Air Congress:
As a snowstorm threatened Washington, D.C., last Wednesday night, there were TV news reports showing members of the House hustling down the Capitol steps so they could get to the airport to catch flights home. This reminded me of something I’ve been curious about for a while.
Several years ago, when I was doing reporting for a book on the aftermath of 9/11 about how the airlines lobbied Congress to block airport security initiatives that they thought would be too onerous, I was told that each airline has a travel agency-like staff in Washington that is an adjunct of its lobbying office. Its sole purpose, one airline lobbyist told me, is to assist members of the House and Senate with their weekly trips home and back. These staffers get the call if a legislator has to change flights because of a last-minute vote.
That sounds innocent enough, but does it mean that someone else gets bumped off a full flight? What kind of other special arrangements, if any, do these airline facilitators make for our legislators that help them avoid the hassles of modern air travel faced by their constituents? How “white glove” is this service?
Do they provide priority upgrades into first class? Do they hold planes for their friends in Congress if they are running late? What about cutting through the security lines? (I bet the more recognizable pols would be afraid to do this at their home airports, but who knows? That’s why I’d assign the story.)
Which airline floods the zone the most with this kind of assistance?
I’m not sure how much we should begrudge these super-frequent-flier public servants some accommodation, but it would be fun to find out just how much of a break they actually get.