The Baltimore Sun

Gripes grounded in reality

Passenger complaints about airlines were up markedly in 2007 - which isn't terribly shocking to those who have flown the nation's unfriendly skies. The really bad news is that most in the industry think matters aren't going to get better anytime soon thanks to the economic squeeze of rising energy prices and a downturn in passengers.

Yet for airlines, these continuing struggles with service should be seen as an opportunity. Consumer expectations are so low that any airline that gets to destinations on time, doesn't lose luggage and delivers service with a smile is bound to get noticed by a weary public.

Despite recent concerns about safety inspections (and a pending $10.2 million fine), Southwest Airlines had the lowest consumer complaint rate of any airline in the annual survey based on U.S. Department of Transportation statistics.

Passengers need to do their part as well and patronize airlines that provide exceptional value and not just the lowest price.

Bad idea begets another

It was a bad idea when officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development recently asked a Johns Hopkins reproductive health Web site to remove two articles related to abortion advocacy. And it was the wrong response when the site's administrators eliminated the word abortion as a search term on the site.

The dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health rightly reversed that decision, and officials are investigating how it was made.

The incident offers a useful public lesson on the dangers of mixing politics and science. Denying researchers, students and individuals access to scientific information on abortion goes beyond censorship, potentially threatening the health and welfare of millions. Women and doctors everywhere should have the right to make their own well-informed reproductive decisions.

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