The “Chairman’s Flight” bribery-in-kind scandal involving United Airlines and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is about as déclassé as scandals at that level of power come. One of the big three legacy carriers bought favors from a regional politician by giving him the special opportunity to cram his ass into an Embraer every weekend for a flight to Columbia, SC. It’s odd that a power player like Jeff Smisek does business with a Mid-Atlantic Yankee whose vacation house is in central South Carolina. A true peer of his would at least catch a fractional share Gulfstream out of Teterboro to his timeshare in Aspen, but most likely he’d own both the jet and the ski house free and clear.
Google’s founders own a fucking 767. They get to base it at Moffett Field because they’re selling the Deep State our personal information, and they argue over how exactly this bitchin’ ride is to be pimped because they enjoy narcissism as well as the normal privilege of security-state Quislings. This David Samson character at the Port Authority was willing to be paid off with free rides on an Embraer out of Newark, where the men’s restroom had standing puddles of disinfectant all over its floors the last time I visited. Granted, that was in the American terminal, but still. Maybe Smisek was like, dude, wicked low load factor! Samson, for his part, didn’t even try to extort A319 service out of United as part of the deal.
Then again, he probably weekends with Atlanta cardiologists. That’s the sort of crowd to be expected in rural areas around the Fall Line in the Carolinas. Other than a nightmare in which I found myself butt naked on the sand in Myrtle Beach, I’ve never been to South Carolina, but I know that the striver set in the Mid-Atlantic doesn’t give a shit about anything above sea level in that state. I went there in my mind, and I don’t think I was even twelve, although I think it’s actually North Carolina that got Sweet Baby James so sappy about moonshine and shiznit. Damned if I’m looking up a thing like that. I’ve known a number of people who’ve gone to one or both Carolinas in order to get trashed as shit or gluttonous before seafood, but again, that was hella low country.
There must have been a significant wealth differential between Samson and the United crowd. There had to be for him to accept such modest in-kind bribes. Bribery in such circumstances is a natural outcome, especially in a country as thoroughly corrupt as the United States today. United had money, and Samson had authority, over ports and otherwise. The chairman was no Jesuit ascetic; he was interested enough in status to maintain a country house hundreds of miles out of state, after all. Or maybe his wife was. Hell if I know. Cherchez la femme if you like. In any event, this fellow, whether for his own purposes or for those of relatives, was interested in currying special favors. It just happened that the special favors in question kind of sucked. You know, first prize, one week in Toledo; second prize…. Dude’s eyes didn’t light up at the realization that United had a hub in Denver, and maybe some extra standby tickets. No, he had to go to Columbia. On an Embraer. That shit’s tight, and I literally mean tight.
The apparent goal of this special flight was to expedite approval of a PATH extension from downtown Newark to the airport. Everyone’s clutching pearls over the corruption instead of asking why the fuck the Newark Airport shouldn’t have a direct rapid transit connection to nearby commercial centers to bring it up to par with airports in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago (O’Hare and Midway), Minneapolis, Dallas, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. I’m not trying to compare EWR to Dubai or Changi or Pudong or some other sparkling foreign airport run by an authoritarian government that executes first-time drug mules or is complicit in wholesale slavery; I’m comparing it to other airports in the United States. Smisek and his team were trying to buy approval of an infrastructure project that should have been completed decades ago. The current AirTrain systems at EWR and JFK, which the Port Authority was quite slow to build, require interline connections to go much of anywhere into town (or anywhere at all from Newark). Public transportation between La Guardia and Manhattan is a local bus out of Harlem.
The most likely effect of United officials successfully bribing their counterparts at the Port Authority would have been the Port Authority sucking less. This is an agency that can’t compete with SEPTA on airport rapid transit, and that’s fucking pathetic. We have all these people who insist on being process-oriented about the approval of a long-overdue direct train line downtown, probably because process-orientation gives them erections of great righteousness, but where’s the process that will get someone to dry-mop the bathroom floors already? PATH, in my experience at least, isn’t that dysfunctional. It probably won’t botch airport service the way the Newark Airport currently botches basic janitorial operations. New Jersey will still be corrupt as shit after the extension gets built, or if it gets built, but at least it will be more smoothly corrupt. NJ Transit is about as comfortable as United, but with less in the way of surly on-board staff, extortionate baggage charges, golden parachute executive-suite looting, and computer meltdowns.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. EWR: It’s like Teterboro, but for poors.