How old is the plane you’re flying on?

Few people expect luxury while flying, but these days, even the basics seem to be in bad shape.

It’s not uncommon to find your tray table broken, the in-flight entertainment system not working and your seat cushion worn — all of which can make you think, how old is this plane anyway?

It won’t be an issue for passengers who board the shiny new Boeing 787 Dreamliner when it enters commercial service — perhaps sometime next year if everything goes smoothly during its testing period…

But for now, the reality for many U.S. air travelers is that most of their journeys take place on planes that have been in service for a decade or more and show it, though in ways that have no impact on their safety — like worn interiors, broken creature comforts and less than spotless conditions…

“It’s inevitable you draw the link, even subconsciously sometimes, between whether a plane is cosmetically well maintained with whether it’s safe,” said Joe Brancatelli, who flies dozens of times a year and runs, a Web site for business travelers…

In fact, it has been a while since most Americans have experienced that new plane smell.

The average age of the fleet of the seven large U.S. passenger airlines — including American, Alaska, Continental, the merged Delta and Northwest, Southwest, United and US Airways — is about 14 years old, according to The Airline Monitor.

It found American and Delta/Northwest had the oldest fleets, at about 16 years on average. As of the end of 2008, a small percentage of the merged Delta/Northwest’s planes dated back to the late 1960s.

U.S. fleets are among the oldest in the world, said Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst at the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia.

RTFA. There’s a bit of babble about safety regulations – which doesn’t mean squat unless the regulations are enforced. Anyone know of any regulations, at all, anywhere, that were enforced during the Bush/Cheney years? We have eight years worth of mediocrity to fix.