Why wasn’t “Spiders in my Dessert” the next “United Breaks Guitars”?


American Airlines wants to know, because it believes “Spiders in my Dessert” could have been a public relations disaster of United Breaks Guitars proportions. (The arachnid, which allegedly lived inside the chocolate cake, makes an appearance at about 0:15. Delicious!)

In a presentation delivered at a recent airline conference, the airline claims quick actions by its communications team averted a PR problem when “Spiders” was posted this summer.

The video was accompanied by the following narrative:
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With air security, travelers are flying blind

IMG_9923The Transportation Security Administration likes to keep terrorists guessing. Apparently, it likes to keep travelers guessing, too.

And we do. Shoes on — or off? Laptop computer in the bag — or on the conveyor belt? And tickets: middle name, middle initial or just first and last? Oh, and are they going to pull you over at the gate for additional screening?

“We don’t want to be consistent,” TSA spokeswoman Lauren Gaches told me. “We want to be flexible. We don’t want a checklist mentality. If we are predictable, it could become easier for someone who wants to do us harm to figure out the system.”
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Nakation, anyone? 5 reasons to bare it all on your next vacation

Nakation, anyone? 5 reasons to bare it all on your next vacation


These are hard times for clothing-optional travelers.

Last summer, thanks to two highly-publicized incidents, naked became synonymous with crazy. In one, a passenger stripped during a US Airways flight and resisted an attendant’s efforts to cover him; in the other, a Southwest Airlines flight was forced to turn around after a male passenger went au naturel.

The American nudist community has endured other recent controversies as well, including the withdrawal of a Florida clothing-optional resort called Paradise Lakes from the American Association of Nude Recreation (AANR) after running a controversial ad campaign that violated AANR’s “family-friendly principles.”
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A canceled flight, a missing refund

orlandoQuestion: I’m trying to get a long-overdue refund from American Airlines, and I need your help. Last year, my husband and I had tickets for our honeymoon on American Airlines. On the morning of the flight from San Diego to Orlando, we got a phone call that said our itinerary had been changed. However, the new flight was almost two days later.

This was unacceptable to us since it was our honeymoon, so we called the airline’s customer service department. They were unable to find us a closer flight so the agent said they would just refund our money. We ended up buying new tickets on another airline.

As you can probably guess, we never received the $1,374 refund we were promised. The tickets were paid for with a debit card so the refund should have been issued back onto the card.

We tried calling American Airlines about this and they said the refund had been issued. But when we called our bank to ask them about it, they said there was never any refund. I have also e-mailed American Airlines customer service about this and they just replied that the refund had already been issued. Then, when I emailed them again and asked for some sort of proof that the refund had been issued, there was no response.

We’re stuck. Is there anything you can do? — Sarah Paynter, San Diego

Answer: American Airlines should have refunded the money you spent on your tickets by now. On second thought, it shouldn’t have ever come to this. When your flight was canceled, the airline should have found a way of getting you to your destination in a timely manner — not two days later.

Your rights as a passenger are outlined in American Airlines’ conditions of carriage — that’s the legal agreement between you and the airline. See paragraph 18, which deals with delays, cancellations and diversions. It specifies that when cancellations and major delays are experienced, passengers will be rerouted on its next flight with available seats.
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A smashed window on my rental car — and a surprise bill

glassWhen you return your rental car, your liability for the vehicle ends, right? Wrong.

Jessica Siegel brought her sedan back to Avis in London recently. A few weeks later, she got a bill for triple the amount she’d expected.

What happened? She’d dropped off the car after hours, and during the night, someone broke a window on the car. The Avis rental agreement says Siegel was responsible for the car until it could be checked in during business hours.

Is that right?
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What’s new on Elliott: A smashing car rental bill, giving thanks for a terminal vacation and Southwest strikes out

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This week’s burning question: Us versus them? Ever felt as if travel was a war of “us” versus “them”? Come on, all you holiday travelers. Share your war stories with me! And also, let me know if there’s any hope for a truce. Send me and don’t forget to include your full name, city and occupation.

In this issue. A smashing car rental bill. Plus, giving thanks for a terminal vacation and Southwest Airlines strikes out.

New posts

A smashed window on my rental car — and a surprise bill

Thank you! United fixes “last vacation” for terminal cancer patient

Southwest Airlines strikes out in airline food survey; Continental tops the list

Help, my travel insurance company won’t answer the phone!

Government issues “precedent-setting” fines against three airlines in Rochester delay incident

Hawaii hotel forecloses, taking guest’s $2,541 deposit with it

Thanksgiving on Treasure Island

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Thank you! United fixes “last vacation” for terminal cancer patient

baliHere’s a heart-warming story for the Thanksgiving holiday: James Thomson and a longtime friend, who is suffering from terminal cancer, ran into trouble with their flights from San Francisco to Bali. One leg of Thompson’s flight was canceled, which threatened to end his friend’s final vacation.

Despite repeated efforts to contact United Airlines, he was getting nowhere.

Would Thompson’s friend miss his last trip?
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