President Bush is "keeping a close eye" on airline woes that are hampering travel for thousands and hurting an already cash-strapped industry, the White House said Friday.
Bush's Cabinet meeting on Monday, scheduled to discuss several issues such as a housing crisis, Iraq and a trade dispute with Congress, also now will feature an update for the president on the airline situation, spokesman Scott Stanzel said.
"For individuals who have had flights canceled or delayed, we know that causes a great strain on people, when they are going to attend weddings or visit to see family or traveling for business. Those are certainly concerns that we share," Stanzel said. "But we also share safety concerns. First and foremost, we want airline passengers to be safe."
Since last month's revelation that Southwest Airlines flew planes that had missed inspections — a violation of federal standards — the Federal Aviation Administration has stepped up its scrutiny of aircraft inspections. The result is misery for the flying public.
Thousands of flights have been canceled just this week. The grounding of American Airlines flights because of safety inspections on its MD-80s alone has affected at least 250,000 passengers.
Also, Frontier Airlines sought bankruptcy protection Friday, the fourth carrier to do so over the past several weeks as exorbitant fuel prices eat into earnings and a weak U.S. economy keeps more people on the ground.
The mess has Congress asking why the FAA tolerated years of lenient enforcement. The Senate confirmation process for acting FAA Administrator Robert Sturgell, whom Bush nominated in October, has been put on hold.
Stanzel said that Bush still wants Sturgell in the job.
"Certainly, the president has faith in Bobby Sturgell's ability to lead the FAA," he said. "And, certainly, the administration wants to make sure that we continue to put passenger safety at the forefront of decisions that are made."
At the Cabinet meeting, Bush will receive an update on airline safety, but also on congestion and other matters affecting the industry.
"Those are obviously issues that are very important to many people around the country and ones we're keeping a close eye one," Stanzel said.