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Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014
Joe Henderson

Henderson: Can flying get worse? Yes, it can!

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One of my great joys now is that I no longer have to regularly board airplanes to fly somewhere. I had to do that for many years in a previous life as a sports columnist for this great institution, but not so much anymore.

Air travel became a total pain as airline bean counters figured out ways to cram more people into smaller spaces, all while reducing services. While contorting my 6-foot-2 frame into a seat where an Olympic gymnast might feel cramped, I devised a fitting punishment for people who came up with this.

They should be condemned for all eternity to the middle seat at the back of the plane, stuck next to someone who can’t stop talking about their cat. The person in the other seat should be falling asleep and snoring, all while leaning on their shoulder while the plane endlessly circles Atlanta.

I thought that was as bad as it could get, but I was wrong.

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Now, the Federal Communications Commission may change the rule that bans cellphone calls in flight. I hope the person who came up with the proposal is sentenced to not just the things I mentioned above, but to have all that happen while a guy spends the entire flight on the phone, trying to complete a fantasy football trade.

I always thought it was dumb when the airlines said we couldn’t use cellphones in flight because it could mess with the plane’s navigation. It was a tough sell convincing anyone that a plane capable of finding Tampa after leaving from Australia might accidentally land in Fargo instead because of interference from my iPhone. Right now, though, I’m sure there are plenty of folks willing to keep that myth alive in the name of salvaging relative peace and quiet on their non-stop from LaGuardia.

Fortunately, the FCC said it will be months before any new rule could take effect, and even then it will be up to individual airlines to set their policies. Just in case your frequent flier program is with TransBlabber Airlines though, here’s a friendly suggestion: Buy stock, now, in any company that makes noise-canceling headphones.

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I’m not naive enough to think we will ever see a return to the good ol’ days of actual legroom and seats that allowed a person to feel like he or she wasn’t flying in a sardine can. But this new thing could be more than annoying.

It’s not uncommon now to hear about problems between passengers, so let’s make it worse. A hypothetical: Someone has been sitting in the airport for 14 hours after his or her connection was canceled. They’re exhausted, hungry, feeling grungy, and the plane they finally board is stuffed to the max.

Then their seat mates on either side start talking loudly, all the way to Albuquerque. The flight will not end well.

You want to send a text message at 30,000 feet? No problem.

Otherwise, to quote former Lightning coach John Tortorella, shut yer yap.

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