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I can't tell you how glad I am to be home. It's not that I didn't love Barcelona or wish I could have stayed over there for another week. It's just that the thought of sitting at airports and waiting and waiting because of delay after delay was really wearing on me.

We were supposed to fly out of BWI on April 1 at 2 p.m. They delayed our flight four times that day so that by the time we caught a 6:30 p.m. flight out to JFK , we missed our connecting flight to Spain.

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Worse, we couldn't find anyone who could give us a straight answer about why so many flights were delayed, especially since the skies in Baltimore were clear as day. We knew and the gate attendants knew we were going to miss our connecting flight, but when we got up to JFK, not one person there knew what to do with our big group of people.

I'm not saying that we wanted to be waited on hand and foot, but it would have been nice if we had gotten a straight answer from someone at Delta, the airline we were flying. Instead, we were sent to Air France, a partner airline with instructions that Air France would accommodate us. When we got to Air France's check-in, they had no knowledge of us or our group at all. So they sent some of us back to Delta. For a couple hours there, our group kept wandering back and forth trying to find someone who would help us.

It was maddening.

Air France finally took matters into their own hands and designated one person to take care of our little group. Thank goodness. It took us 28 hours and an extra stop at Charles de Gaulle International Airport, but we finally made it.

But I consider myself lucky after watching last week's airlines meltdown.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? That the airline industry is imploding (not to use a scary words when it comes to flying) and it's going to further crush our ailing economy? The signs are definitely bleak.

American cancels more than 2,500 flights. Midwest idles a dozen planes to examine wiring, too. Shortly before that, United canceled flights due to safety concerns and Southwest grounded 4 percent of its flights to catch up on inspections.

I haven't even mentioned Aloha Airgroup, ATA Airlines and Skybus Airlines flying for bankruptcy. None of this is making me feel confident about flying. And this is not to say that I'm placing all the blame on the airlines since the FAA isn't exactly making me feel all that secure right now either since it seems to me that routine, consistent and thorough inspections shouldn't find a ton of problems all at once like this.

How many more times should the government bail out the industry? Would a bail-out even help at this stage? Airlines are already charging us for extra bags, preferred seating and food. What next, the air we breathe? Yes, fuel prices are up, but last time I checked, airlines have been adding on fuel surcharges to our ticket prices, too.

So are we to blame consumers? Should we as flyers keep expecting inexpensive ticket prices or is the public's demand for cheap flights helping to cripple the industry? Or, are we as flyers, already putting up with an awful lot whether its lost luggage, repeated flight delays, indifferent customer service (when someone asked about whether we'd make our connection, the flight attendant on our BWI to JFK flight responded coldly, "I don't know. I don't have any answers for you.") and the like? Because really, what are you going to do if you get really mad at the airline? Cancel and take the bus to Spain? I think not.

To be honest, I don't really have any answers either. I do know that regardless of whether you pay $100 for a ticket or a $1,000 a ticket, the service you might encounter is up in the air (no pun intended). More money doesn't guarantee you better service. In many cases, it doesn't even guarantee you a seat as American flyers last week.

What I do know is that the government shouldn't bail the industry out again without some solid changes, demands and accountability set in place first. Do we know how they're managing their operations and budget? What's to stop the industry from getting another bailout now, only to extend its palm out again another few years down the road?

(Sun Photographer Jed Kirschbaum)

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