The real air traveler’s Bill of Rights

August 31, 2007, 3:40 PM UTC

As we enter into this Labor Day Weekend, with so many of us hitting the skies to enjoy this last little lick from the ice cream cone of summer, I thought it would be timely and appropriate to offer what seems to me to be an achievable, realistic draft of a document that has been much discussed by lawmakers and other philosophers: A Traveler’s Bill of Rights:

  1. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do while imprisoned within the air travel system can and will be completely ineffective.
  2. You have the right to get to the airport very early, only to find that your trip has been cancelled.
  3. You have the right to accept the excuse for that cancellation or not, whatever.
  4. You have the right to wonder why the airport has been under construction since you were a baby with no visible progress in sight.
  5. If you fly for more than 1,000,000 miles per year, you have a right to a special person whose job it is to apologize to you for that fact that nothing can be done.
  6. You have the right to remain in the airport for as long as is necessary for the airline to determine what they’re going to do with you.
  7. You have the right to leave the airport if you want to, but once you do the airline has the right to cancel your reservation altogether.
  8. Come to think of it, you have the right to consider your reservation absolutely conditional on certain criteria that will remain unclear to you.
  9. All travelers will have access to a space on the floor of any airport in which they are interned.
  10. You have the right to eat any food that you can find, except when you are sequestered overnight, in which case you have the right to eat any food you may have brought with you, or that you can either scrounge or steal from fellow passengers who are older, weaker or more infirm that you.
  11. Once on the airplane, all passengers may sit quietly in their seats for an unspecified amount of time without water, food or air, except in First Class.
  12. All passengers will have the right to sleep during long periods of inactivity on the tarmac, except in cases where the crew on the flight deck continually makes announcements that convey very little information in order to expunge their own anxiety and guilt.
  13. While waiting for your plane to take off, you have the right to wonder whether it’s going to take so long that they will eventually drive you back to the gate and dump you back in the terminal.
  14. While waiting to deplane after not taking off for unspecified reasons, you have the right to wonder why there is no gangway crew to let you off for 90 minutes.
  15. You have the right to feel no patience whatsoever when you are thanked for said patience during the 14th announcement before takeoff.
  16. During any flight that actually leaves the ground, you have the right to wonder how flight attendants can stand it.
  17. You have the right to wonder where the occasional empty seat beside you went, and to remember what that was like, and speculate that the incessant cancellations of flights are designed to ensure that there are no such seats in the future.
  18. You have a right to a clean restroom for the first 30 minutes of any flight.
  19. You have the right to a turkey wrap.
  20. You have the right to stay home.

 There may be more. I invite you to suggest your own. Have a happy Labor Day, everybody.