The latest crisis includes a Southern California family that was kicked off a Delta Air Lines flight last month for refusing to give up a seat they paid for. The Scheaf family got the boot after they refused to give up the seat they purchased for one of their kids but were using for a different kid, a 2-year-old, according to the Washington Post. Delta asked them to surrender the seat to another passenger but Brian Scheaf refused, telling airline personnel that he paid for it. The Schaefs were flying on a red-eye flight from Maui to Los Angeles with their two young children.

Their 18-year-old, who the seat was originally purchased for, left Maui the previous day and returned home to Orange County, Calif.

Small print

The Small Print on airline tickets explains how air carriers are generally not subject to challenge over how they choose to sell tickets and seat Passengers. This may have worked well in the past -- airlines are among the most powerful companies in the United States -- but may not be working so well now.

While Delta has since apologized to the Schaefs, the incident is just the latest in a string of similar problems on airplanes, including the well-publicized forcible removal of a doctor from a United Airlines plane in Chicago last month after he refused to voluntarily give up his seat..

"Our team has reached out and will be talking with them to better understand what happened and come to a resolution," the airline told the newspaper on Thursday.

But if it seems as if these incidents are becoming too frequent to ignore. Perhaps something dramatic has to be done about them.

Federal crime

The regulation that makes it a federal crime to interfere with an airline crew member is going to have to be revisited.

It's far too vague if airlines can use it to justify trying to intimidate law-abiding passengers like the Schaefs, or that guy who got kicked off his flight last month, also on Delta, for making a last-second bathroom run after passengers had been told to sit down.

Maybe the system worked when there were many more airlines competing for passengers, but this has gone too far.

Flying has become an unpleasant chore, rather than an exciting pleasure. Airlines have proven repeatedly that they cannot be trusted with this kind of power any longer. So, passengers, through their government that regulates air travel, are going to have to take that power back.