Airline Cancellations Could Continue for Days

Regulators warned American Airlines Tuesday that half its planes could violate an important safety requirement. As a result of safety tests, the Airline canceled an additional 900 flights today, bringing the total to 2,400 cancellations.

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BILL WOLFF: From NPR News in New York, this is the Bryant Park Project.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, live from the NPR Studios, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, stuff people like. I'm Alison Stewart.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

I like you.

STEWART: I like you, too.

MARTIN: I'm Rachel Martin. It's Thursday, April 10th, 2008. And so, Ali, everyone knows about the whole Stuff-White-People-Like phenomenon.

STEWART: This website.

MARTIN: If you can call it that, this website.

STEWART: Yeah.

MARTIN: Well, that's, like totally February of 2008.

STEWART: That is five minutes ago.

MARTIN: Yeah, so five minutes ago. Now it's about stuff that people like. This is the new thing.

STEWART: It's so funny, all these websites have popped up about Stuff Asian People Like, Stuff Educated Black People Like, Stuff Nobody Likes.

MARTIN: Yeah. I mean, that's when you know that the original Stuff That White People Like has officially jumped the shark. I knew that when I was in my neighborhood and I walked in front of a grocery store and saw a TV - a hapless TV reporter kind of stalking black shoppers at the Whole Foods to ask them, hey, so, what do you think white people like? It was the most awkward - I was just like - I thought two things...

STEWART: Awkward.

MARTIN: First, I'm really glad I don't have your job, and second, yikes.

STEWART: Yikes. So, we're going to talk to actually two people who have come up with their own stuff people like websites, and they're pretty funny.

MARTIN: Indeed. Also coming up on today's show, all three presidential candidates have declined to take a questionnaire by Project Vote Smart. It's called the Political Courage Test, but only one candidate is getting into some trouble over it. John McCain, right?

STEWART: Yeah, because he sits on the board of Project Vote Smart, and now they're saying, you know what? If you're not going to take this, we might have to remove you from the board. They've done it to other politicians who declined to actually participate in this.

We'll talk to somebody from Project Vote Smart. Also, a review of the most popular book in America, and a new film profiles Palestinian hip-hop. Rachel spoke with the director. We'll also get today's headlines in just a minute. But first... (Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: Airline passengers, you are now free to go back to Sbarro in terminal one and settle in for awhile.

Ms. MARY RICKARD (Passenger, American Airlines): An absolute disaster. I understand there's a four-hour wait just to get to the ticket counter. Shoot me now.

MARTIN: That's Mary Rickard, who would have been a passenger on American Airlines if it hadn't cancelled 1,000 flights yesterday to conduct safety inspections. It doesn't look much better for the country's largest carrier today either, as about 900 more flights will not be taking off.

STEWART: Now, the semi-shutdown started on Tuesday, when federal regulators warned American that nearly half its planes could violate a safety requirement for wires to be properly bundled. If those wires rub together, it could cause an electrical short, or even a fire. American says that passenger safety has not been compromised.

MARTIN: The three-day cancellation total for American? More than 2,400 flights grounded, affecting about 100,000 passengers. Hardest hit were American hubs in Dallas and Chicago, where passenger Wayne Wishnew(ph) was not appeased by apologies or food vouchers.

Mr. WAYNE WISHNEW (Passenger, American Airlines): American Airlines doesn't seem to really care. They stick you in long lines. Their phone lines are busy. So, they may have lost a customer today.

STEWART: Now, we all know what you're thinking. Didn't a whole mess of flights get canceled about two weeks ago for the same problem? Yes, but apparently, American didn't get the wire bundling quite right the first time. Here's Roger Frizzell, vice president of corporate communications for American.

Mr. ROGER FRIZZELL (Vice President, Corporate Communications, American Airlines): We took the wires. We sheathed the wires. We bundled the wires. We put connectors on the wires to make sure there is no sparking. All that had been completed, but to the exact specification they felt that we hadn't completed. As an example, they felt like the connectors needed to be an inch apart. That's part of the directive. We had, in some cases, an inch and a quarter, or an inch and a half.

STEWART: Now, the FAA's increased scrutiny comes on the heels of congressional testimony last week in which Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors accused their bosses of cozying up to the airlines and ignoring safety concerns. Again, here's stranded passenger Wayne Wishnew.

Mr. WISHNEW: They should have been doing this maintenance all along, a few at a time instead of creating this havoc at the airport. I mean, it's nuts.

MARTIN: American warns that cancellations could continue for another couple of days. So if you're traveling, check your flight status before going to the airport.

STEWART: You can keep up-to-speed on this story all day at any time by going to npr.org. Now, let's get to some more of today's headlines.

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