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Woman opens emergency exit door, jumps out of plane

A woman who flew to Houston from New Orleans didn't follow disembarkation instructions, but rather took matters into her own hands.

The unidentified woman opened an emergency exit door and jumped out of a plane as it was taxiing down the runway at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

The plane was headed toward its gate, airline spokeswoman Maddie King, said.

>> Read more trending stories  

Hampton Friedman, a passenger who was sitting across the aisle from the woman, captured a photo that showed the open door. 

"I realized when the door popped open, and a woman stepped out of it," he told CNN. Cathy Cole, another passenger, said the woman took off running toward the terminal.

"Somebody on the plane said, 'We have a runner,' and they kept repeating it," Cole told KHOU. "I was traveling with my sister, and she looked out the window, and she saw a woman on the tarmac running toward the terminal."

Another witness told KHOU that the woman didn't say anything before opening the door and jumping about 15 feet to the ground.

<iframe width="390" height="219" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EVtEmuEfkQ8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Flight passengers waited on the plane for over an hour while police boarded and searched the aircraft. 

"They kept telling us to wait, stay in our seats, stay seated," Cole told KHOU. "The captain came on air and said, you know, the police will be boarding the plane. They came on the plane with their dog."

According to KHOU, the woman was not charged and prosecutors said she is undergoing psychological tests.

"I've flown all over the world, and I've been on lots of really long flights, and I've never experienced anything like this," Cole said. "I have no earthly idea why she would want to do that."

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.8";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> We landed and waited for gate to open up as we were 30 min early.  A lady opened emergency exit door which she was...Posted by Cathy Cole on Monday, November 28, 2016

Gatlinburg aquarium: 'Animals are safe' after devastating Tennessee wildfires

Wildfires fueled by high winds roared through parts of the Great Smoky Mountains, burning the doorstep of the Dollywood theme park, destroying a resort and chasing thousands of people from their homes. In its ashy wake were scorched cars and buildings, and soot-covered debris covered in a smoky haze, The Associated Press reported.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Gatlinburg wildfire threatens Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies; employees forced to abandon building

But Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies posted a hopeful update Tuesday afternoon: All its animals are safe.

"For the safety of our employees and guests, all of our Attractions will remain closed until the evacuation has lifted," the property said in a Facebook post. "We have a team of Marine Biologists and Life Support Experts inside the Aquarium and are happy to report that the animals are safe."

>> Read the post here

For the safety of our employees and guests, all of our Attractions will remain closed until the evacuation has lifted....Posted by Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies on Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ryan DeSear, general manager of the aquarium, also spoke to the Knoxville News-Sentinel

"All is fine here at Ripley's Aquarium. Obviously, the city has had a lot of problems, and it has been very hard for us to get into this building, but all the animals are fine. Life support's working great, and the building is coming along just fine, so we're very positive moving forward that we're not going to have any issues."

He added, "We're very grateful, obviously, to all the people that have been working these fires. ... All is good. We got very lucky here at the aquarium, and we look forward to getting back to business as usual when the time comes."

>> Watch the video here

Earlier reports were harrowing.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Dollywood, other Tennessee tourist destinations evacuated due to wildfires

“We are still not allowed into the city at this time,” the property posted as flamed crept closer to Gatlinburg. “I know our Biologists are trying to get into the city as quickly as they can. We will post updates as soon as we have them.”

>> Read more trending stories

The aquarium also shared DeSear's video showing the town under smoky siege:

Arsonists need to go to prison for a long timePosted by Ryan DeSear on Monday, November 28, 2016

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Beagle Brigade help confiscate roasted pig, horse meat sausages over Thanksgiving weekend at airport

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents say their Beagle Brigade helped confiscate several illegal items -- including an entire roasted pig -- from travelers flying out of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Joey, a beagle pup, alerted agents Wednesday to the bag of a traveler from Peru to find the pig. Agents said it was seized and destroyed.

On the same day, agents said a traveler arriving from Uzbekistan was found to have fruit trees, carrots and cured sausages consisting of horse meat.

Investigators said the fruit trees lacked a United States Department of Agriculture import permit and phytosanitary certificates, while the meat and fresh carrots were seized to prevent the potential introduction of pests or animal diseases.

“Our best defense against destructive pests and animal diseases is to prevent the entry of prohibited agriculture products they use as vectors from entering the United States,” said Carey Davis, CBP Area Port director for the Port of Atlanta.“One measure Customs and Border Protection employs to intercept prohibited agriculture products is the effective deployment of highly-trained K-9 units. These seizures at ATL illustrate the tremendous expertise of our four-legged K-9 partners in protecting the United States’ many agriculture industries.”

On Friday, Candie, also a Beagle, alerted agents to a bag that belonged a traveler from Bulgaria containing fig trees, tulip bulbs and almond seeds, and seized it for destruction.

Delta apologizes after passenger goes on profanity-laced Trump rant in packed plane

Delta Air Lines apologized for a "disruption" on one of its flights this week after video posted to social media showed a man shouting at fellow passengers in support of President-elect Donald Trump.

>> Read more trending stories

"Donald Trump, baby," the man yells to his fellow passengers as he stood and clapped. "We got some Hillary (expletives) on here? Come on, baby. Trump!"

Video of the Tuesday incident, which contains explicit language, was posted to Facebook by one of the flight's passengers. It was shot on Delta Flight 248, bound for Allentown, Pennsylvania, from Atlanta.

"Donald Trump is your president, every (expletive) one of you," the man tells the crowded plane. "If you don't like it, too bad."

The outburst garnered uncomfortable looks from many of the flight's passengers, to the man's apparent disappointment. A man across the aisle, one row ahead of the shouting man, ignored him while reading. A woman nearby resolutely stared at her phone.

One man, however, appeared to support the public display of support. The shouting man clapped for him.

Despite the flight's interruption, it went on as scheduled.

"We have followed up with the teams involved and all agree that this customer should not have been allowed to continue on the flight," Delta said Saturday in a statement. "Our responsibility for ensuring all customers feel safe and comfortable with Delta includes requiring civil behavior from everyone."

The airliner said it plans to review its training materials to ensure that employees "know they will be fully supported to make the right decisions when these issues arise."

The man has not been identified.

These "magic words" will save you big

Here at Budget Travel we speak fluent French, Italian, Spanish, and other languages. But we've also mastered the phrases that can score you a deep discount, a steep upgrade, or some tasty perks.

Have you ever had a conversation where moments—or even days—later you realize, "I wish I'd said that"? Travel booking and airline and hotel check-ins can often feel like that, with so many questions, options, and price points to juggle. The travel experts at Budget Travel have been there and back. We've assembled a 12-point cheat sheet with twelve phrases to help make your next travel booking easier, nab you some upgrades, and save you money.

"Can I get an upgrade?"

Well, that question seems a little on-the-nose, doesn't it? But most airline passengers never ask, and it can pay off. Ask politely, and if you're met with silence, be willing to wait for an answer instead of backing down. Last-minute first and business class seat availability can mean you pay an "up-sell" fee (typically $50 and up) to get out of coach. The same question can work at a hotel, especially if it's a hotel that caters to business travelers and you're checking in over the weekend.

"Bump me!"

Airline crews deal with a lot of tired, anxious, and sometimes just plain cranky passengers all day every day. Letting them know that you're willing to get bumped to another flight solves some major problems for them—and can result in your being moved up to first class just because you were willing to be accommodating. Note: It might also get you bumped, so use this phrase only if you mean it.

"I serve in the military."

We can't guarantee it, but first-class passengers have been known to trade seats with military personnel as a way of saying "thank you" for their service. On a more predictable note, cruise lines will often offer a discount if you tell them about your military service.

"Would you like some chocolate?"

This may sound a little precious, but handing out one-pound chocolate bars to the gate agents and flight crew gets John E. DiScala, founder of travel advice site johnnyjet.com, a better coach seat or upgrade about half the time.

"We're on our honeymoon!"

Our evidence here is anecdotal, but Budget Travel readers have reported that telling airline personnel at check-in that you're newlyweds can get you moved to first or business class. Hotels, of course, will almost always respond with an indulgence or two. But don't say it if it's not true—apart from the fact that lying is wrong, you may have a difficult time answering questions about your alleged recent nuptials!

"I have kids."

Hotels may be willing to upgrade you to a suite at no charge, and if you ask for a later check-out to accommodate the little ones you'll almost always get a thumbs-up.

"I'm flying alone."

When airlines try to accommodate families who want to sit together, it helps if they know they can move your seat, and there's a chance they'll move you to first or business class, where single empty seats are more common.

"Give me the cheapest car you have."

We know, we know. When renting a car, you don't really want to cram yourself into the cheapest model in the company's garage. But if you're willing to take the chance, booking the lowest-priced car available and showing up super-early in the morning (before most people have returned their rental cars) can garner you a free upgrade to a bigger car.

"Has the price gone down?"

Yeah, airline seats and hotel room prices fluctuate, and there's a chance that the price has dropped since you made your reservation. Call the airline or hotel regularly as your trip approaches and, if the price goes down, ask for a refund or re-book. (But make sure there's no significant re-booking fee!)

"Is that 'free' newspaper going to cost me $25?"

Resorts are notorious for tacking on fees up to $25 per night for goodies you might assume were free—including pool towels, Wi-Fi, newspaper delivery, gym access, and even access to the resort's casino. Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Las Vegas are especially known for these non-negotiable surprises. Your best bet it to ask about extra fees up front when making a reservation.

"I'm a return customer."

When booking a cruise, mentioning that you've sailed with the line before can nab you a 5 to 15 percent discount on your fare.

"I'm 55+."

Yup, just remembering the 1960s should get you a 5 percent discount from most cruise lines.

See More From Budget Travel:6 Easy Ways to Save on a CruiseThe Right—and Wrong—Way to Pay for Your Dream Trip12 Most Iconic Rivers on Earth

AAA predicts busiest Thanksgiving travel season since 2007

If you’re traveling this Thanksgiving week, plan ahead.

>> Read more trending stories

AAA estimates 49 million Americans will be traveling more than 50 miles from home this holiday. That’s one million more people than traveled last year.

AAA spokeswoman Tamra Johnson said an improving economy and low gas prices are main factors for the surge in travelers. Nearly 90 percent of Thanksgiving travelers will be on the roads.

“Those numbers are the highest we've seen since 2007,” Johnson said. “We really feel like people are taking advantage of the lower gas prices and driving this year.”

Johnson estimates that lower gas prices have saved American’s $28 billion dollars over the last year.

The driving group says some of the most popular destinations include Las Vegas, New York City, Orlando and Seattle.

AAA’s Leisure Travel Index projects airfares will increase 21 percent this Thanksgiving, with round-trip flights for the top 40 domestic routes averaging $205. Daily rental car averages lowered 13 percent to $52.

The driving membership group is planning to help 370,000 stranded drivers. The most common cause for calls will be blown tires, batteries needing to be charged and drivers locking themselves out of their cars.

AAA defines the Thanksgiving travel period as Wednesday through Sunday.

Coming soon: Magic Kingdom to add in-park cabanas for rent, but they won't come cheap

Disney is adding in-park cabanas at the Magic Kingdom for guests to rent, according to WDW News Today.

But renting one will come at a hefty price.

>> Read more trending stories  

WDW News Today’s blog said the Kingdom Cabanas will be added to the park Nov. 27, and will be available for a daily rental price of $649.    

The cabanas will be placed near Space Mountain in Tomorrowland, and will accommodate up to eight guests, the blog said.

The blog also said that amenities in the Kingdom Cabanas include private and shaded seating, cold beverages, snacks and reserved viewing space for parades and fireworks.

Anyone interested in booking a cabana can call 407-WDW-PLAY or they can visit the concierge at any Disney World Resort Hotel.

Chicago O'Hare Airport employees plan strike after Thanksgiving

Employees at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport announced Monday that they plan to strike on Nov. 29, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending stories

Service Employees International Union Local 1 announced the date outside the airport Monday morning, The Associated Press reported. The workers say they want the public's support and wouldn't want to mess up anyone's holiday plans.

About 500 workers committed to a strike after a vote last week. The workers are trying to organize with the union's help. They work mainly for private contractors at the airport and include baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, janitors, and wheelchair attendants.

The workers are seeking union rights and a $15 per hour wage.

It wasn't immediately clear how such a strike would affect operations at O'Hare, which is one of the nation's busiest airports. The Chicago Department of Aviation has said it doesn't anticipate any disruption in service.

The ultimate insider's guide the Macy's Thanksgiving parade

Planning to visit NYC for the big parade? We've got you covered with when/where/how tips to get the most out of this one-of-a-kind holiday experience.

Budget Travel is based in New York City, and we get just as swept up in the city’s holiday lights, music, and energy as any visitor. With the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade coming up, we decided to take a peek behind the scenes to provide you with some of the best advice for getting the most out of this annual extravaganza.

Be a New Yorker for a Day

"Be part of the hustle and bustle and embrace the energy of the Big Apple at holiday time," says Wesley Whatley, creative director, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. "Plus, a hotel near the route could be a bathroom lifesaver on Thanksgiving morning." It's fun to be a “New Yorker for a day” and leave the car at home. Or, if you must drive, park on either the far west or east side of Manhattan and take public transportation to the parade route. Before the big day, get a Metro Card for boarding subways and buses to avoid lines. Walking is always an option (and will help burn off some of the calories that you’ll be consuming later in the day).

Don't Make the Out-of-Towner's No. 1 Parade Mistake

"Do not stand below 38th Street, the parade's 'quiet zone,'" says Whatley. Parade participants and performers use the quiet zone to prepare for their "closeup" on TV in Herald Square, and you will completely miss out on exciting parade music and performances in this area. Want to know more about viewing the parade? The complete route can be found at macys.com/parade.

The "Best Place" to Watch the Parade Is...

"Ever since the classic film Miracle on 34th Street, the dream parade viewing location has been from a Central Park West apartment on the 6th floor overlooking the route with the park as a backdrop," says Whatley. "But, since most of us don't have that kind of access, a close alternative is to approach the route from the west along Central Park West or the south along Central Park South - it's still early in the march, energy is high and the view of Central Park with our large helium balloons passing by is an iconic Macy's Parade experience!" The parade should take about 90 minutes to pass you by from the opening band to Santa Claus’s sleigh.

Ensure Safety & Happiness for Your Whole Crew

"Dress for the weather," says Whatley. "Pack extra hand and foot warmers and dress in layers.  Also, wear rain-proof coats and boots. NYC weather in late November can change quickly and you want to stay comfortable, warm and dry!"The NYPD have a large presence to ensure a safe and happy morning for all, but follow your usual common-sense travel practices: Keep your valuables to a minimum; avoid carrying around oversize backpacks and luggage; always pay attention to your surroundings. And, as we always say here in NYC, “if you see something, say something.”

The ultimate insider's guide to the Macy's Thanksgiving parade

Planning to visit NYC for the big parade? We've got you covered with when/where/how tips to get the most out of this one-of-a-kind holiday experience.

Budget Travel is based in New York City, and we get just as swept up in the city’s holiday lights, music, and energy as any visitor. With the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade coming up, we decided to take a peek behind the scenes to provide you with some of the best advice for getting the most out of this annual extravaganza.

Be a New Yorker for a day

"Be part of the hustle and bustle and embrace the energy of the Big Apple at holiday time," says Wesley Whatley, creative director, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. "Plus, a hotel near the route could be a bathroom lifesaver on Thanksgiving morning." It's fun to be a “New Yorker for a day” and leave the car at home. Or, if you must drive, park on either the far west or east side of Manhattan and take public transportation to the parade route. Before the big day, get a Metro Card for boarding subways and buses to avoid lines. Walking is always an option (and will help burn off some of the calories that you’ll be consuming later in the day).

Don't make the out-of-towner's no. 1 parade mistake

"Do not stand below 38th Street, the parade's 'quiet zone,'" says Whatley. Parade participants and performers use the quiet zone to prepare for their "closeup" on TV in Herald Square, and you will completely miss out on exciting parade music and performances in this area. Want to know more about viewing the parade? The complete route can be found at macys.com/parade.

The "best place" to watch the parade is...

"Ever since the classic film Miracle on 34th Street, the dream parade viewing location has been from a Central Park West apartment on the 6th floor overlooking the route with the park as a backdrop," says Whatley. "But, since most of us don't have that kind of access, a close alternative is to approach the route from the west along Central Park West or the south along Central Park South - it's still early in the march, energy is high and the view of Central Park with our large helium balloons passing by is an iconic Macy's Parade experience!" The parade should take about 90 minutes to pass you by from the opening band to Santa Claus’s sleigh.

Ensure safety & comfort for your whole crew

"Dress for the weather," says Whatley. "Pack extra hand and foot warmers and dress in layers. Also, wear rainproof coats and boots. NYC weather in late November can change quickly and you want to stay comfortable, warm and dry!" The NYPD has a large presence to ensure a safe and happy morning for all, but follow your usual common-sense travel practices: Keep your valuables to a minimum; avoid carrying around oversize backpacks and luggage; always pay attention to your surroundings. And, as we always say here in NYC, “if you see something, say something.”

See More From Budget Travel:60 Gifts Every Traveler Wants!Stress-Melting Holiday Travel Tips16 Awesome American Winter Trips

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