It was a legendary story in our newsroom, retold to new hires as a warning never to antagonize top management.
The company had a private jet, used by about a half dozen top execs, and reports had it that the CEO had called one of his local publishers to meet him at a small airport.
When the subordinate arrived he was fired on the spot for some past infraction and told to find his own way home from the airport without his auto. Then, the CEO was driven away in the company car, previously used by the employee.
Anyone who has stood in line at an airport, or waited for a delayed flight, appreciates the inequality of the very rich flying around the country with instant takeoffs and landings. The CEO story above may not be entirely true, but it reflects the anger of a newspaper group’s employees over the special treatment of upper management.
Another vignette from the same company was the requirement that some employees invited to an organization conference had to drive the 387 miles to and from the event, while the big shots flew on the private jet.
Alan Clendenin, a founding member of the advocacy group Flyers for Fairness, believes there is more to this inequality than just executives saving time.
The problem with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) is that it is really still back in the 1940s, and upgrades would insure less waiting, even lower ticket prices and improve safety.
Congress continues to give lip service to improving ATC, and the most recent effort is to move some functions to an independent nonprofit organization with more ability to improve infrastructure and technology. The politicians are currently considering such a bill, supported by both the nation’s major airlines and the air traffic controllers’ union,
But curb your enthusiasm that things will get better, because the lobbyists are against real improvements.
A little-known special interest group called the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), which represents the nation’s wealthiest corporate and private jet owners, is working fervently to block these efforts, Clendenin explained.
For years, the NBAA and its members, which include major corporations such as Honeywell, Monsanto, United Technologies and JPMorgan, have stood in the way of efforts to reform aviation infrastructure. This is largely because they want to protect a status quo that allows them to avoid paying their share of ATC modernization costs.
In fact, while corporate and private jets account for about $1 billion in annual ATC costs — with many CEOs racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal air travel — they pay only a small fraction of that in fees each year (only $57 million in 2014) to help maintain and upgrade the system.
He said NBAA members also receive many other taxpayer-funded perks and subsidies:
For instance, Honeywell — a member of NBAA’s Leadership Council — has taken more than $400 million in subsidies over the past 20 years, and through a variety of tax-avoidance maneuvers, paid just a 15 percent corporate tax rate from 2008 to 2015 — far below the 35 percent federal rate.
The NBAA is fighting to preserve this status quo with an all-out lobbying war to kill reforms. Meanwhile, lines at our airports grow longer, and more flights are cancelled.
This airport improvement roadblock is another example of government-sponsored private/public partnerships, where very rich folks reap “private” benefits, paid for with public dollars.
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