Air Travel Hits New Lows for Passengers

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Flying, it seems, has descended to the airborne equivalent of taking the city bus across town.

Except it costs a lot more.

And what do I get for my money? A bag of pretzels, safety worries and monumental aggravation.

It's no surprise that airlines are struggling due to fuel costs and a sinking economy in which potential travelers have less discretionary cash to spend.

But my family's safety is more important than an airline's bottom line. Any airline that flies nonairworthy planes and turns a blind eye toward mandatory safety inspections drags the industry to a new low at a time when travelers are already fed up.

AMR Corp.'s AMR American Airlines canceled more than 1,300 flights yesterday and today to reinspect airplane wiring in the wake of last month's safety scandal involving Southwest Airlines (LUV). Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration slapped Southwest with a $10.2-million civil penalty for flying planes that hadn't been inspected for fuselage cracks.

UAL Corp.'s (UAUA) United Airlines and Delta Air Lines (DAL) also grounded planes for inspections when the FAA announced a maintenance audit following the Southwest debacle.

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