We, The Passengers

by Joe Lavin -- http://joelavin.com

As many of you know, airlines are not at all popular these days. In a 
recent poll, 65% of Americans said they had a low opinion of the airline 
industry. Of course, the other 35% either worked for an airline or couldn't 
be reached when the poll was conducted because they happened to be 
sitting in an airplane that had been taxiing up and down a runway for 
several hours. *

Because of all this, some in Washington are trying to pass an Airline 
Passenger Bill of Rights that would include the following proposals:

1. Airlines would have to pay a fine if a flight is delayed. 
2. Passengers would have to be given the reason for a delay whenever 
3. "Because we told you so. Now sit down and shut up or we won't give 
you any peanuts, you miserable whiny miscreant." would not be 
considered an appropriate reason.
4. Frequent flyer policies would have to be clear and easy to understand, 
unless, that is, the passenger is flying on a Wednesday flight during a 
Saturday layover and making sure not to stay over more than one 
consecutive day during the allotted period as referenced on page 366 of 
the frequent flyer policy booklet to be published in February 2001. Please 
note other restrictions may also apply. 

Such a bill sounds like an admirable idea, but I'm not sure how 
much it will help. First, there is the safety factor. Fining airlines 
for delays sounds good in theory, but will it really have the 
desired effect? 

"I don't care if the wing is on fire! I want that plane to take off 
now, or else the fine will be coming out of your salary!"

Meanwhile, letting passengers know why there's a delay also sounds like 
a nice idea, but all the airline has to do is make up something like, "Sorry 
for the delay, but we just need to recalibrate the jibnut on the axle side of 
the decompressor before taking off." and they'll be off the hook. And 
let's face it: will we really feel better knowing why our flight is delayed? 
Much like religion, flying requires a certain suspension of disbelief. We 
depend on the airline and the pilot, and the last thing we need to hear are 
more reasons why they might be fallible. Frankly, I can imagine enough 
problems on my own without being told any new ones. I just hope this 
law doesn't require the pilot to tell us about the problems while in the air.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. I'm sorry for the 
turbulence back there. Unfortunately, we lost control of the engine for a 
few minutes. Actually, everyone here in the cockpit thought we were 
going to die, and the crew and I were busy trying to figure out how to 
hoard all the flotation devices from you so that we would have a better 
chance of surviving after we crashed into the cold icy ocean. But luckily 
the engine seems to be working again, knock on wood, so we'll be 
landing in just under two hours, unless of course we run out of gas 
before making it to the coast. Meanwhile, please sit back and enjoy the 

Even if the bill is only about delays, this new honesty policy 
should at least make for some interesting flying.

"Ladies and gentlemen, Flight 106 to Chicago will be delayed, 
as the pilot is still legally drunk from the four highballs he drank 
during his last flight, and the co-pilot seems to be locked in the 
lavatory with that very attractive flight attendant we just hired."

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. I just want 
to apologize for taxiing on the runway for the last hour and a 
half. You see, it's the darnedest thing. I just forgot where gate 
73B is. I was going to ask for directions, but then I figured I 
might be able to find it if I taxied around in circles for a very long 

"Ladies and gentlemen, we're terribly sorry for the delay, but 
unfortunately the entire crew made the mistake of attempting to 
eat the airline food. They've all come down with food poisoning, 
but as soon as they stop throwing up, we'll be ready to take off. 
Thank you for your patience, and thank you again for choosing 
Overpriced Uncomfortable Airlines. Remember we're 50% 
more overpriced and uncomfortable than our competitors, or 
you're money back!"

Passenger Bill of Rights or not, something tells me we'll still be 
complaining about the airlines for years to come. 

* This poll contains a margin of error of  +/- 100% since I happened to 
make it up.

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