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Passenger abuse puts airlines in hot seat

Mom offered me up as a human sacrifice when she decided I would fly to California with granny.

Whoever said "Any publicity is good publicity" didn't know what they were talking about. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune via AP)

My dad's mom wanted to get to Los Angeles to see her daughter and she sure as hell wasn't letting grandpa drive. Last time she agreed to get in the car with him for anything longer than a ride to the Dairy Queen it almost ended in a roadside divorce.

On that trip we were headed to New Orleans for a wedding. I was in back seat of grandpa's station wagon when granny opened the glove box and found a loaded handgun and a flask. Stridently, she accused grandpa of endangering all of our lives.

"Are you expecting a shootout at a wedding?" she asked, in various forms, repeatedly.

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Grandpa just muttered, referred to the map (printed on paper in those days) and kept the pedal down. We never broke 45 mph, which led to us being a bit late. Visiting Arkansas didn't help.

Grandpa employed the flask as soon as he parked the car outside a church in Louisiana. He might have pondered using the gun.

Jet planes are a lot faster than station wagons and the chances of grandpa having a loaded weapon or getting lost are almost zero.

Grandpa got banned from traveling with granny after the New Orleans trip, which was why mom put me on the plane. I figured it was important because mom took me to the barber and bought me a new clip-on tie.

The ride from south Georgia to the Atlanta airport was quick. Mom drove so fast granny said she was endangering all of our lives.

I saw more people at the airport than lived in my hometown.

The plane, a Delta Air Lines 747, was huge. It held more passengers than my school had students.

As we hurtled down the runway granny grabbed my forearm in a vise-like grip, began praying and alerted fellow passengers the pilot was endangering all our lives. I never heard her complain about grandpa's driving again.

Granny misbehaved a bit, but the flight attendants were kind and soon had her excited about flying to visit family.

Times have changed.

In April, United Airlines dragged a passenger off an overbooked flight .

Video captured the incident, but United CEO Oscar Munoz initially blamed Dr. David Dao, who recently settled a lawsuit against the airline for an undisclosed sum.

Without the video, Dao would probably have gotten nothing except two busted teeth and a broken nose.

Congress is now considering ways to force airlines to treat paying customers better.

Sensing the spotlight, our nation's leaders have worked hard to come up with clever names for legislation that will never become law.

  • Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has proposed the "Customers Not Cargo" Act.
  • Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Fla.) conjured SEAT, the Secure Equity in Airline Transportation Act.
  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) invented BOARD, the Bumping on Overbooked Airplanes Requires Dealing Fairly Act.
  • TICKETS, the Transparency, Improvements and Compensation to Keep Every Ticketholder Safe Act, is so epic two U.S. senators -- Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) --- wasted their time drafting it.

Should Congress tell U.S. airlines how to conduct business? Or will the free market provide enough economic punishment?

I know what granny would say: "Grandpa, drive faster. We're getting passed by another guy on a lawnmower."


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