The Good, Bad and Ugly of Airlines

Sometimes when traveling I feel like I'm in a movie.

March 15, 2013, 10:01 AM

March 15, 2013— -- Sometimes when traveling I feel like I'm in a movie. Never anything as hairy as the airport escape scene in "Argo" or the crash-landing of "Flight." More like "Les Miserables."

You know, stuck in a middle seat with no legroom, no nothing (but at least no one sings).

Lately though I've been getting more of a spaghetti western vibe from flying, especially with airlines making news in a bunch of unusual ways. You guessed it: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Here's a list.

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The Good

United: The employees of the airline recently held a plane for one of their passengers, a San Francisco man named Kerry Drake, so he'd get a chance to say goodbye to his mother before she died. He made it, barely.

Holding and delaying a flight may seem like a small thing to you, but consider those all-important airline on-time statistics published each month for all to see and notice that the United workers engaged in this kindly conspiracy didn't mention their good deed to their employer. However, a spokesman for the airline did tell me they found the whole thing "very touching."

Southwest: A passenger left his phone on a flight and figured that was that. Only Southwest retrieved it and mailed it back to him. Icing on the cake was the enclosed poem. As poetry, it stunk:

"It's always sad when something's lost, when what is yours is gone;And the hope that it will soon be found is what keeps you going on…"

But the guy who received it along with his phone was delighted and it tickled me too. Let me just add, "Never mind the flack you caught; all the matters is the thought" (could not resist).

Honest airport employee: A part-time employee at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International found $7,000 in cash lying by the curb and promptly turned it in. That's what one is supposed to do, but does it always happen? "I believe in doing the right thing," said parking lot cashier Pamela North Hollowaay. Makes for a nice change after all those stories of theft by TSA, baggage handlers and even civilians walking in off the street to help themselves to bags off the carousel as we saw in recent reports out of - yes, Hartsfield-Jackson again.

The Bad

Knives on planes: This might actually fall under the "good" category as far as some are concerned but plenty of flight attendants and pilots don't like the TSA's decision to allow pocket knives on plane. As the TSA's Nico Melendez told me, today's biggest threat is from explosives not bad guys - thanks in part to locking cockpit doors and federal air marshals - so the feds are lifting the little knife ban as of April 25.

Knives, battle axes, machetes, bring 'em all on, says former TSA chief Kip Hawley, who says if he was still in charge, he'd welcome armed passengers: "Bring anything you want that is pointy and sharp." Hawley thinks this could deter hijackers and since almost anything can be used as a weapon - including duct tape - what the heck (more on an ingenious new use for duct tape in just a moment).

Flights attendants call this outrageous. Their concern is attacks against the good guys - like cabin crews! - adding they deal with unruly passengers "every day." Passengers like, the head-butter.

The Ugly

A recent New York to San Diego flight on JetBlue had to divert to Denver after a woman in one of the premium seats objected when a coach passenger was moved next to her (apparently his seatback TV screen back in steerage was broken). Ms. Elite Seat's beef was she'd paid big bucks for her little slice of luxury and the interloper didn't. She had a point, but went about solving the dilemma in the worst way possible: according to at least one news report, she head-butted a flight attendant. Interestingly, she was removed from the plane but no arrest was made.

Then there's the duct tape incident, which qualifies as a silver lining in my playbook: a 46-year-old Icelandair passenger reportedly drank up all his duty-free liquor then went on a mid-air rampage, choking his female seatmate then stomping about while screaming that the plane was about to crash. Fed-up fellow passengers tackled him, shoved him back in his seat and stuck him there with duct tape.

Not so long ago, I wrote about ingenious things travelers could do with duct tape for this very column; needless to say, this wasn't one of those things! Not sure if the 2002 movie, "Duct Tape Forever" (yes, that's the title) included anything like this but I'll let you know if I ever find anyone who's seen it.

The opinions expressed by Rick Seaney are his alone and not those of ABC News.

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