Just what we need: another airplane terror

August 17, 2006|By KEVIN COWHERD | KEVIN COWHERD,SUN COLUMNIST

If you haven't yet experienced the joys of airline travel this summer, there is still time to book your flight and get in on all the fun.

This was already shaping up as a stressful travel season, what with higher ticket prices, long lines at check-in counters and security checkpoints, packed flights, etc.

Then came news of the terrorist plot in Great Britain to blow up airliners with liquid explosives, which, as you can imagine, jacked up passenger stress levels considerably.

I don't know about you, but when I hear the words "liquid explosives" in an airport, all the other hassles of air travel seem to diminish in importance.

Anyway, most of the stress of flying now revolves around what you can and can't pack in your carry-on bag.

As of this writing - and the rules seem to be changing by the minute - you're not allowed to carry on almost all liquids, unless it's baby formula or breast milk, prescription medicines and a few nonprescription medicines, such as cough syrup.

Also forbidden are gels, lotions, creams, sprays, mouthwashes, most solid objects, most liquid objects, most dense objects, most malleable objects and so on.

Oh, and snakes, too.

(OK, that was just another of the hip cultural references this column is noted for. You heard about this new movie, Snakes on a Plane? About, um, snakes terrorizing passengers on a jetliner? Gee, there's a movie I really want to see.

(Look, I can barely handle a little turbulence when I fly. If I looked down and the cabin was suddenly crawling with snakes, I'd just drop dead right there in seat 14C or wherever.

(I'm serious. It would be: snake sighting, heart attack, boom, gone. Head slumped on the shoulder of the passenger next to me, eyes rolled back, the whole bit.)

Getting back to the baby formula and breast milk, allowing them on planes was a no-brainer.

Because the fact is, you just can't have babies screaming for three, four and five hours on a flight, no matter what the threat level is.

I don't know if you've ever sat near a screaming baby on a long flight, but it causes the most amazing chain reaction.

First what happens is, the baby's screaming immediately begins driving all the other passengers crazy, as you can imagine.

You'll see them squirming and fidgeting and turning the volume up very loud on their iPods.

Then, if the baby continues screaming, the other passengers will begin directing thoughts of pure malevolence toward the poor mom or dad who's struggling with the screaming baby.

And the mom or dad will feel these "hate waves" bombarding them from all directions.

If the baby continues to scream, you'll see the parent begin to tremble and glance about nervously because of the collective ill will being radiated his or her way.

It's really something to see, a very powerful force.

That's why parents will do anything to stop the baby's screaming, and why formula and breast milk must be allowed on board to sedate the baby and keep the rest of the passengers from mentally lashing out at the parent.

An airline that banned formula and breast milk and had screaming babies on its flights would be committing financial suicide.

Because passengers who have flown with screaming babies tend to remember the experience for a long, long time.

It can be very traumatizing.

And, of course, those passengers who were traumatized would surely remember what airline caused them all that pain and suffering.

Then the next time they had to book a flight and that airline's name came up, they'd think: Oh, no, that's the airline that allows the screaming babies. No way am I booking a flight with those guys.

And not long after that, the airline would go bankrupt.

At this point, I suppose, market forces could take over.

If enough airlines went bankrupt because they banned formula and breast milk and allowed babies to scream on their flights, the need might develop for an airline that catered exclusively to screaming babies and their parents.

But, frankly, that's probably a long shot.

Where would you get flight attendants to work those planes, for one thing?

Those are the kinds of things you have to think about if you go in that direction.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

To hear podcasts featuring Kevin Cowherd, go to baltimoresun.com/cowherd

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