More hot air

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Yesterday should have been the easy part. According to the shotgun promise they made in June, all the nation's major airlines had to do was meet a self-imposed, Sept. 15 deadline to tell the traveling public what they were going to do to clean up the Godawful mess they'd made of their own house. They've got another three months before anything actually has to be done.

But if people were hoping for some meaty reforms from the airlines' announcements, well, they must have come away pretty hungry. United served up gadgetry, with promises of hand-held baggage scanners and "Mobile Chariots" that would race to the gate of any overbooked or delayed flight to assist frazzled passengers. Continental, going for a warmer, fuzzier panacea, promised better communication in all things.

One question: Or what? If the airlines want people to believe they're serious about improving service, they need to put it in writing, right on the back of the ticket where it's easy to get to in a pinch. Something like, "We, Eddie's Airlines and Grill, will get you where you're going on time, without torturing you, or we will buy you a brand new car."

Let's start there and work our way up to something realistic.

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