Herb Kelleher, the colorful long-time CEO of Southwest Airlines, once joked that if the Wright brothers were alive today, Wilbur would have to fire Orville to reduce costs.

Former President George H.W. Bush revealed the thing he missed most about flying in Air Force One is that they never once lost his luggage.

I could go on all day about airline jokes, as I'm sure many of you could, but we must move on to the topic de jour, which not coincidentally, is about the airlines.

Specifically the recent imbroglio over stealth ticket taxes.

As we've been reporting, a number of airlines - most recently Delta - under intense pressure from lawmakers, agreed to refund travelers for money paid out in the wake of the July 23 suspension of non-essential services at the Federal Aviation Administration.

Delta claims it has stopped collecting taxes that it had spliced into its ticket sales, which included a 7.5 percent tax on the base ticket price, a $3.70 segment tax, and, ahem, "facilities taxes" on international flights as well as to Alaska and Hawaii.

However, Delta and others had been accused of boosting fare prices by about the same amount they had been collecting in taxes and, well, pocketing the difference.

Now as someone who still remembers when food blankets, pillows and two pieces of luggage were free on flights, I found this claim to be not exactly jaw-dropping. Not when I'm still unsure about why a round trip from New York to Los Angeles on the exact same day and time is $720 cheaper than one from New York to Detroit.

The IRS said that some travelers may be entitled to refunds on the ticket taxes.

Last week, Delta indicated that it's waiting for the IRS to provide guidelines on refunds and would post it on its website. And to be fair, the move earned the carrier praise from IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.

In an industry that in my opinion has gone out of its way to portray itself in the worst light possible over the last 10 years, this episode does little to burnish an already tattered image in need of a gargantuan public relations makeover.

Okay, one last airline joke.

I once overheard a passenger at JFK request that the ticket agent send one of his bags to Chicago and the other to Dallas. When she replied that company policy prohibited doing that, the man quipped, "Really? You folks had no problem last week."



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