It's about time

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Last week, the Department of Transportation officially took Northwest Airlines to the woodshed for stranding passengers aboard an ill-equipped, grounded plane for eight hours during a blizzard. The incident sparked a flurry of passenger rights initiatives currently being exploited by every politician in search of a non-irritating campaign platform.

The DOT report may end up providing some unlooked-for benefits for consumers. Rather than waiting for passenger rights legislation to be ratified, which the DOT report pretty much assures, airlines are scrambling to come up with voluntary initiatives aimed at making air travel less, well, horrible.

U.S. Airways last week announced that it will follow in United's footsteps with the 10-5-Takeoff program, which essentially states that if you're not in your seat 10 minutes before takeoff, you'll wind up watching from the gate as your plane takes off. Other carriers are expected to follow suit.

You know, when I'm late getting to the bus station in the morning, the bus rolls out without giving me a thought. That's because they have a schedule to keep. What took the airlines so long to catch on to such a simple concept?

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