Air travel keeps descending to new lows

American Airlines says passenger seats on a third

American Airlines says passenger seats on a third flight came loose during flight and it's continuing to inspect other jets with similar seating. (Credit: Bloomberg News, 2011)

Ellis Henican

Newsday columnist Ellis Henican Ellis Henican

Henican is a columnist for Newsday. He also is a

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Just when you thought air travel couldn't possibly get worse, American Airlines unveils a new onboard amenity that most fliers would just as soon avoid.

Loose seats.

Folks, this is basic stuff, bolting the seats to the aircraft floor! This isn't just another blinking yellow light in the cockpit!

What's next? Forgetting to close the door on take off ("Honey, does the air seem thin in here?") or leaving the wings at home? Even the Wright Brothers knew not to let the seats flop around.

Clearly, these are trying times at American. A protracted bankruptcy. Pilots calling in sick. Eagerly circling merger sharks from US Airways. And now 7A doesn't just recline into 8A. It slides right over to say hello.

At week's end, American yanked 48 Boeing 757s out of service, canceling nearly 100 flights to reattach each plane's 168 seats.

The airline's official apologists said they have the problem fully under control, but the shifting explanations left some room for doubt. First, the airline blamed a defective floor clamp. Then, they started fingering a combination of wear, poor design and spilled soda.

By the weekend, the (aptly named) BoltBus intercity service wasn't looking like such a bad travel alternative.

HELL AIR

1. Pay toilets in coach

2. Toddler kick rows

3. Clean cabin air, 50 cents a gulp

4. Mandatory in-flight meals

5. Fly naked, skip security

ASKED AN UNANSWERED: Will Candy Crowley run a tighter show at the Hofstra presidential debate than Jim Lehrer did in Denver? Couldn't be any looser, right? . . . Deer season -- or deer-tick season? . . . Amid the uproar over the lavish welcome dinner for Superintendent Vincent Butera, why didn't anyone notice what an excellent bargain the Bayport-Blue Point School Board got? Forty guests at the upscale Blue Point for $24 a head! . . . Two alligators in two days in the Pathmark parking lot in Baldwin-fenokee? . . . How much longer before LI has a Bill Gates High? Not much if the Microsoft boss keeps tapping local schools (four in Bellmore-Merrick and Patchogue-Medford districts) with his Big History largesse . . . When word spread that two stars of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" would attend the Cabrini Mission charity golf tournament in Port Washington, who was expecting a couple of pleasant young brothers in polo shirts? What? Loud and shallow women don't like to putt?

THE NEWS IN SONG: You can use some exotic booze: "Come Fly With Me" by Robbie Williams, tinyurl.com/robfly

LONG ISLANDER OF THE WEEK: NOVA SHEK

Autism hits home for 11-year-old Nova Shek, a soft-spoken sixth-grader at Candlewood Middle School in Dix Hills. Nova's 4-year-old brother, Zen, is battling the condition. Visiting his Building Blocks Developmental Preschool in Commack, she was sad to discover that not all his little classmates had access to the limited supply of iPads. With 750 autism apps, Nova also learned, the popular Apple tablets make great nonverbal communication aids. Her parents, Tina and Simon, explained how much iPads cost, but Nova wasn't too impressed by that. She pulled $50 dollars from her savings, bought some chocolate and baking molds and sold her Autism lollipops to schoolmates, neighbors and people at the mall. The haul? Just enough to donate two iPads to her brother's school. Others are now noticing, including the national group Autism Speaks, which just put Nova on the Youth Leadership Council. Did I mention she's 11 years old?

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