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OFF LIMITS

United we strand: Sure, the debut flight of United's $120 million Boeing 777 out of Denver International Airport last Wednesday morning was a soaring success, with a sendoff that included costumed well-wishers and the flash of many cameras. But the fate of the first flight in caught United officials, airport boosters and the press napping. Literally, according to United spokesman John Philp, who was awakened at home by an employee wondering what had happened to the plane.

The ill-fated flight, a leg of the trip that started at London's Heathrow early in the day, was scheduled to leave Chicago's O'Hare at 7:10 Wednesday evening. But over an hour later, scheduled passengers were still milling about the concourse, listening to the oompah band at a nearby gate serenading a 777 heading to Frankfurt and wondering when they would hear a straight story from United. "It was an absolute nightmare," says a Colorado executive who'd been booked on the plane purely by unhappy accident. At ceremonies earlier that day, the 777 had been billed as the "plane of the 21st century"--and it was beginning to look like that was when this one would finally leave.

After repeated delays, United announced that the plane was grounded because of mechanical difficulties (it turned out a generator had to be replaced). A chunk of the passengers were sent to American with the assurance that United would take care of their bags, and the rest waited for United's next flight out--on a plain ol' 757. The two groups landed within minutes of each other at DIA, over four hours behind schedule. The disgruntled, anonymous exec sprinted over from Concourse C to the United baggage claim, where a United employee told him she had no idea where the American passengers' luggage was. "Your bags are their problem," she said helpfully.

"Welcome to the future of flying," as United senior vice president James Goodwin had pronounced at DIA's 777 sendoff just eighteen hours earlier.

The future looks equally grim over at USAir. Flying home from Charlotte on one of that airline's planes last week, another Denverite was stunned to hear his flight attendant chirp over the PA that Denver officials "had not yet seen fit" to provide USAir with jetways at DIA. And so the passengers stepped off the plane--and down a stairway into the pouring rain.

Giving credit where edit's due: Calling all opinion-makers! Already short two bodies on its editorial-writing staff, the Denver Post is currently interviewing candidates to fill the job of editor of the editorial pages, since longtime Post survivor Chuck Green is moving to a slot as full-time columnist. The Rocky Mountain News will soon have an opening for a pundit, too: Dave "The Shif" Shiflett is reportedly leaving the paper to become a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer. Hope he's got some steady work lined up that doesn't require him to open his notebook too often. As Shiflett told those attending a religious-right political strategy seminar in Denver earlier this year, "Editors, journalists, like everyone else, want to do as little as possible."

A year and holding: The endless coverage of the O.J. Simpson case has had at least one beneficial side effect: better behavior in local courtrooms. Or so noted Denver District Court judge Nancy Rice recently, after a legal newcomer politely asked the judge if she could "approach the bench, the way they do it on

 
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