Tuesday, June 10, 2008


"One ringy-dingy. Two ringy-dingys. A gracious good morning to you. Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?"

Way, way too many travel reporters are hamstrung by their inability to do original reporting or analysis, and mired in the level of humor characterized by the inane chitchat of local TV anchorpeople. Or, you can almost hear Lily Tomlin as Ernestine the telephone operator snorting at her jokes.

Thus we had all that giddy attention several weeks ago on the fact that Frontier Airlines had raised the charge for carrying antlers on board -- while the same reports generally overlooked the fact that Frontier had used the predictable yuks to quietly slip in the real news that it was it was adding a fee for a checked bag.

And thus the attention, day after day it seems, to the comic proposition that airline passengers might be charged by their weight, like cargo. Hardy har har.

Last week, the Philadelphia Inquirer, which used to be a grown-up newspaper till a couple of real-estate hustlers bought it, ran phony ads from a made-up airline called Derrie-Air in which tickets were purportedly priced per passenger pound.

Forget the fact that a once-respected newspaper now thinks nothing of jerking its readers around with fake ads. The Inquirer -- where I once worked -- is Philadelphia's problem, and it's hardly the biggest problem faced by a town with a murder rate that causes people to call it Killadelphia.

Instead, consider that the strained joke is still being reported in major media, as if this is the biggest knee-slapper since Spiro Angew got exposed as a bagman.

Let's get serious, media. The airlines have a very limited number of realistic options left. None involve inanities like weighing people in. All of them involve severe reductions in flying -- parking planes, cutting routes, reducing schedules, raising fares to the point where large numbers of people won't fly.

By fall, the national air transportation system will probably be 20 percent smaller than it was last year.

And that's going to be nothing to snort about.


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