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Clinton welcomes reporters onto her new campaign plane

ABOARD THE CLINTON CAMPAIGN PLANE -- Hillary Clinton waved as she boarded her first flight aboard her new campaign plane on Monday morning, beginning the Democratic nominee’s final sprint toward Election Day

“Looks good, doesn’t it?” she said.

The new plane -- a Boeing 737-800 with Clinton’s “H” logo on the wingtips and tail -- was surely a sight for sore eyes for some in her traveling press corps, the tight group of reporters, photographers, television producers and correspondents that have been covering her bid for the White House since last April. 

That group has criss-crossed the country separately from Clinton for nearly 17 months. But the new plane, which has enough space for the candidate, a number of her staffers, her Secret Service detail and at least 42 members of the media, signals a new era of access for those whose job it is to document her every move.

Clinton made her way to the press section in the back of the plane just before the plane took off for Cleveland, where she appeared at a Labor Day festival with her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.

“I am so happy to have all of you with me,” she said. “I have just been waiting for this moment, and I’m thrilled.”

Clinton is widely perceived as cautious, not thrilled, when it comes to interacting with members of the media. Though she has done hundreds of interviews by phone and in person as a candidate, she often ignores reporters who ask her questions at her campaign events or changes the topic.

“Try the cold chai,” she suggested to several reporters inquiring about her vice presidential search at a muffin shop in Washington, D.C. back in June. Outside a coffee shop in Reno last month, she offered reporters chocolate instead of a Q&A.

The separation between Clinton and the media breaks precedents set by presidential nominees in previous elections, even the one she set as a candidate back in 2008 when she traveled with reporters on a single plane during the primaries. Her fundraisers -- more than 300 to date -- have been almost entirely closed to the press, and Clinton has not held a formal press conference since last December. 

It’s a campaign style that isn’t lost on Clinton’s opponent, Donald Trump, whose campaign now sends members of the press suggested questions to ask “Hiding Hillary.”

The Trump campaign has also faced questions about transparency. The Republican nominee has not yet made his tax returns public and does not regularly travel with the reporters who cover his campaign. 

Clinton’s aides have promised reporters more face time with her in the next nine weeks, and ensured that she will be accessible if she is elected.

“The amount of interaction can only go up,” said Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Clinton, in an interview for an ABC News podcast last week. “I’m sure [the plane] will bring with it a lot of opportunities for additional access to the candidate and interactions between her and the traveling press corps that covers her every day.”

On Monday morning, Clinton answered casual questions about her weekend and the “mad dash” ahead, and said she’d be back later in the day to take some more questions. 

“I’ll come back and talk to you more formally,” she said, “but I wanted to welcome you onto the plane.”