Flying, once a quirky luxury, has not completed its transition into an unavoidable descent to hell. The experience of flying on commercial airlines grows more excruciatingly painful by the day.

ITEM: "United Airlines is getting tough on passengers with oversized carry-on bags, even sending some of them back to the ticket counter to check their luggage for a fee."

ITEM: "At the end of March, Southwest frequent fliers will see their points devalued by roughly 14%."

ITEM: "Regional airlines can't fill their cockpits, and it's because their pilots earn miserably low pay."

ITEM: "In the wake of its merger with US Airways, American Airlines this week became the latest major U.S. airline to end its policy of offering bereavement fares."

ITEM: "A new study estimates that severe weather has cost airlines and passengers $5.8 billion this winter."

ITEM: "Over the past 15 years, most global carriers have upgraded their business cabins with seats that spread out into flat beds. These are so luxurious that most airlines have ditched first class. To make room for these loungers, airlines have squeezed coach class. First they compressed rows by shaving knee space. Now many are wedging an extra seat into each row."

ITEM: "North Korea defended on Wednesday its recent missile firings as 'ordinary military practice,' as South Korea said Tuesday's volley passed above a Chinese passenger jet's route just minutes ahead of the airliner."

"Maybe a missile strike would get us a little more god damn legroom," joked Jay Leno, before retreating to his private jet.

[Photo: AP]