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Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Tale Of Two Airports: Oakland and Dallas

The other day Wake up America wrote a post called "Can we question their patriotism yet" and it spoke of the "miscommunication" at Oakland International Airport, and their not allowing Marines and Soldiers into the main terminal.

On September 27th 204 Marines and soldiers who were returning from Iraq were not allowed into the passenger terminal at Oakland International Airport. Instead they had to deplane about 400 yards away from the terminal where the extra baggage trailers were located...


Michelle Malkin obtained the Oakland Airport response and received verification that the story is true.

I have also obtained the Port of Oakland’s response about the incident to Captain David Epstein of the Reserve Officers Association. The Port official blames a lack of “clear communication” from the charter airline hired by the military. In other words: it’s the troops’ fault:

Thank you so much for sharing with me the information you had regarding the incident at the airport. As you know sometimes the way things appear initially regarding an incident turn out to be different after looking into the details. We checked into this once you had called me and raised your public relations concern, so again thank you. Here is the background information I have about the incident as well as the procedures and policies that affected decision-making that day.

In the case of North American Airlines Flight #1777, a military charter flight that arrived at OAK on Thursday, September 27, aircraft parking and passenger service arrangements were coordinated and approved in advance between the ground handling company and Airside Operations. The airport received information that the passengers were not TSA-screened at their originating airport and that weapons were on-board the aircraft. Together with our security partners, the airport made a decision to park this aircraft at a remote location on the tarmac. It is the responsibility of the charter airline that its operation is compliant with TSA screening requirements.

Upon landing and parking at OAK, the pilot-in-command advised the ground handling company that the parking and passenger handling provisions did not meet expectations. Upon learning this, Airside Operations and Aviation Security worked with the ground handling company and other law enforcement partners to coordinate a plan that was satisfactory to the pilot and passengers, and which was compliant with all airport safety and security standards.

Oakland International Airport (OAK) makes customer service a priority for all its passengers, whether they are traveling on commercial, military or general aviation aircraft. Charter airlines operating at OAK can choose to contract with a number of ground handling companies. Ground handlers coordinate flight services such as passenger handling, and aircraft fueling, cleaning and catering. It is the responsibility of ground handling companies to communicate aircraft and passenger operational needs to OAK’s Airside Operations Office in advance so that special accommodations can be coordinated to ensure that all airport operational, safety and security concerns are addressed.

The scheduled arrival and departure time of the flight is set by the aircraft operator. Time is needed to refuel the aircraft, perform maintenance inspections, refresh the catering, and give passengers time to stretch to break-up long travel periods. An analysis of the incident and prior correspondence between OAK’s Airside Operations and the ground handler determined that the airport did not receive clear communication in advance from the charter airline that was hired by the military.

I am out of town starting tomorrow for a convention. If you have any further inquiries about this incident and the way it was handled, Rosemary Barnes who is part of our Public Affairs team would be happy to speak with you. You may also call Joanne Holloway, the acting manager of the Port’s Community and Customer Relations Department.

Kindest regards,
Marilyn Sandifur
Port Spokesperson
Port of Oakland

Today we see a report of a far different greeting for our troops coming home at a Dallas Airport:

The incident at the Oakland airport reminded me of a scene I witnessed while at the Dallas airport earlier this year. As I walked down the terminal, I noticed that a big crowd of travelers and airport workers had gathered. Businessmen broke from their phone conversations, parents and children paid attention, TSA screeners stopped what they were doing, and flight attendants paused. A gate attendant just announced that a large group of U.S. soldiers — fresh from Iraq — was just about to walk off the plane.

More than 100 travelers and employees waited in silence. The gateway door opened and one by one young men and women, each with a tanned face and wearing their uniform, stepped onto U.S. soil. The crowd applauded, cheered loudly and yelled, “Welcome home!” I stood among a group of strangers. Each of us said “Thank you” to the men and women who walked off that plane. Some bystanders cried, and many of the soldiers seemed touched — some fought back tears, others remained stoic.

I was proud to be an American and equally proud by the way that our men and women who serve our country were treated — with the gratitude and respect they deserve. If only those in the Bay Area felt the same way.

The contrast could not be any starker.

Please go read " Our Soldiers: Modern American Heroes at Burkean Reflections.

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