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What to do if you're treated unfairly on a flight

United Airlines is making headlines again. And once again, it’s not good.

>> Read more trending news

This time, the airline forced a woman flying with her 2-year-old son -- both of whom were ticketed passengers with seats -- to give up her son’s seat to another passenger and make the flight from Houston to Boston with her son in her lap.

The woman, Shirley Yamauchi, said she paid $969 for the June 29 flight, according to the Houston Chronicle.

“Not a single airline employee on that flight asked me why I had a large child on my lap,” Yamauchi of Kapolei, Hawaii, told the Houston Chronicle. “I didn’t feel safe or comfortable, but I really didn’t have a choice.”

On its website, the Federal Aviation Administration recommends against parents traveling with lap children because “your arms aren’t capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence.” United’s own policy on traveling with children states that “once infants turn 2 years old, they are required to have a purchased ticket and occupy a seat.”

These are not the first headlines United has made this year. In April, a man made international news after he was forcibly removed from a United flight after not voluntarily giving up his seat. The month before, the airline sparked outrage after barring a couple of teenagers from flying because they were wearing leggings.

With outrageous news about airlines making waves so frequently, what should you do if you believe your rights are being violated before or during a flight?

  1. Document everything. If you’re going to go up against the airline, you’re going to want a paper trail. Save every email, transcribe every call, take down every name of every person you talk to, and, if it gets really bad, shoot video. You want as much information, and evidence, as possible to make your case.
  2. Make social media your best friend. Post about the infraction on social media, and be sure to tag the airline. The louder you are, the better chance you have of catching the attention of someone who can help.
  3. Know your rights. The sad truth is that airline passengers have very few rights, but it doesn’t hurt to get familiar with the airlines’ individual “contracts of carriage,” which are filed with the government and outline each airline’s rules and regulations. Here’s what the United Airlines contract of carriage looks like. 
  4. Call customer service. Even if you’re at the airport, calling customer service — especially once you’ve read the contract of carriage and know your rights — can offer a quicker solution than standing in line after line of disgruntled fellow passengers. Call center representatives sometimes have more information, and more ability to make change, than gate agents. You may also want to file a complaint with the Department of Transportation.
  5. If it’s really bad, reach out to local news outlets. Ever notice how every time local news starts covering an airline story, the airline seems to take swift action? Nobody wants a public relations nightmare on their hands. Getting media coverage can be a quick way to get attention, and a solution.

Low-cost airline considers replacing seats with standing space

A low-cost airline based out of Colombia is considering ridding its planes of seats and having customers stand for the duration of flights. 

>> Read more trending news 

“There are people out there right now researching whether you can fly standing up,” VivaColombia airline founder and CEO William Shaw told the Miami Herald. “We’re very interested in anything that makes travel less expensive.”

Shaw and airline officials believe the move could fit more passengers onto planes and drive down airfare for customers, making flights more affordable for budget travelers.

“Who cares if you don’t have an inflight entertainment system for a one-hour flight?” Shaw asked in reference to seat-less planes. “Who cares that there aren’t marble floors ... or that you don’t get free peanuts?”

VivaColombia announced the purchase of 50 new planes last week, the Miami Herald reported. Those planes have more seats than most of the planes owned by the airline, a move to fit more passengers per plane and cater to the increasing tourism industry in Colombia. 

According to The Independent, VivaColombia isn’t the first airline to propose seat-less flights. Ryanair proposed standing areas on planes in 2010.

“(A plane is) just a ... bus with wings,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said at the time. “If there ever was a crash on an aircraft, God forbid, a seat belt won’t save you. You don't need a seat belt on the London Underground. You don't need a seat belt on trains which are traveling at 120 mph.”

Read more at The Independent and the Miami Herald

TSA begins searching books before travelers board planes

The TSA is testing a new policy under which passengers will be asked to separate their reading materials from the rest of their carry-on luggage so agents can fan through the pages to see if anything dangerous is hidden inside.

>> Read more trending news 

Right now, the book searches are happening at just a few airports, but Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in a recent television interview that the process could expand nationwide.

Though the TSA insists agents will not pay attention to the contents of your reading material, there’s no way to verify or enforce that neutrality. Some already believe the TSA doesn’t pick passengers for extra screening as randomly as it claims. And some say it would be easy for agents to unfairly scrutinize people reading controversial political or religious content — or just an author the agent happens to dislike.

The policy also raises a new privacy concern. The United States has “a long history of special legal protection for the privacy of one’s reading habits,” notes privacy expert Jay Stanley in an analysis of the TSA’s plan for the ACLU. That history includes “numerous Supreme Court and other court decisions, [plus] state laws that criminalize the violation of public library reading privacy or require a warrant to obtain book sales, rental or lending records.”

“A person who is reading a book entitled ‘Overcoming Sexual Abuse’ or ‘Overcoming Sexual Dysfunction’ is not likely to want to plop that volume down on the conveyor belt for all to see,” Stanley said. Or what if you’re learning Arabic or studying advanced mathematics? Critics have pointed out that both of those activities attracted airport security scrutiny even before implementation of a nationwide book screening. 

Some say scholars are especially at risk of running afoul of the TSA under this new program. “Academics are unsurprisingly big readers, and since we don’t simply read for pleasure, we often read materials with which we disagree or which may be seen by others as offensive,” said Henry Reichman, chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

“For instance, a scholar studying terrorism and its roots may well be reading — and potentially carrying on a plane — books that others might see as endorsing terrorism,” he said. 

Read more of this editorial piece at Rare.us.

Mom says baby overheated as United Airlines plane sat on tarmac for 2 hours

2017 is not a good year to be an airline company, especially if that company’s name is United Airlines. 

Passenger and mom Emily France said her baby became overheated recently on a delayed flight as the aircraft waited on the Denver International Airport (DIA) tarmac, reports the Denver Post. The 39-year-old said that passengers waited for more than two hours on the plane despite a heat wave in the area. France recalled “hot air coming from the vents.”

>> Read more trending news

“We just sat and sat and sat,” she said. “I hit my call button and said, ‘I think it’s getting dangerously hot back here.'”

France also said that despite requesting an ambulance, she had to wait for 30 minutes before she was allowed to leave the plane with her son, Owen.

“They couldn’t evacuate us. It was chaos. I really thought my son was going to die in my arms,” France said as she criticized the airline for not being prepared to handle her situation.

>> Man forcibly removed from flight after not voluntarily giving up seat

Owen was treated at a children’s hospital after the incident. Doctors said he suffered from the heat but thankfully remained unaffected by heat-related medical conditions.

DIA spokesman Heath Montgomery corroborated the call for an ambulance.

A representative for United emailed the following statement to the Denver Post:

"Yesterday, a child onboard flight 4644 at Denver International Airport experienced a medical issue while the aircraft was taxiing prior to takeoff. The pilot returned to the gate as our crew called for paramedics to meet the aircraft. Our thoughts are with the child and family, and we have been in contact to offer travel assistance."

Read more here.

New island forms off North Carolina coast

An island that appeared to be little more than a “bump” in April has grown to span a mile across and three football fields wide off the coast of North Carolina, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

The island near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse has been dubbed “Shelly Island,” so-named because it’s a prime location to find seashells, visitor Janice Regan told The Virginian-Pilot.

“Isn’t it crazy?” Regan asked the newspaper. “It was just a little bump in April.”

The island formed off Cape Point, “a constantly changing spit of land of about 100 acres,” according to The Virginian-Pilot.

Tourist Chad Koczera noticed the sandbar while searching for shells during a vacation with his fiancée, according to CNN. He realized that he couldn’t get to the island by foot, so he sent up his drone and photographed it.

Officials warned that despite the island’s picturesque beauty, it can be incredibly dangerous to reach. The Hatteras Island Rescue Squad said last week that it had to rescue five people from the island after the tide rose, surrounding them with quickly moving waters and stranding them.

“It becomes (inaccessible) as the tide begins to come in and the current rips through the channel at a dangerous speed,” officials said. “We highly recommend that visitors and residents do not attempt to wade or swim to the island.”

International airport in Florida bans medical marijuana

It is now illegal to have any type of marijuana, even medical marijuana, at the Orlando International Airport.

>> Read more trending news

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Board unanimously approved the medical marijuana ban Wednesday.

A draft policy published this week by the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority puts medical marijuana users at risk of arrest when flying out of Orlando International Airport, despite 71 percent of Florida voters choosing to legalize weed for medical uses last November. 

The draft policy seeks “to clarify that, despite the Florida constitutional amendment legalizing the use of Marijuana for medical purposes and the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of Marijuana by the City of Orlando, Marijuana is prohibited from being brought onto Airport Property.”

It goes on to say marijuana, including items for medical use, will be confiscated going forward. And that “any person violating this provision will be detained or arrested by a Law Enforcement Officer.”

"We are not a law enforcement agency. We are not walking around trying to look in anybody's pocket," said Marcos Marchena, GOAA general counsel.

Read: Legislature reaches agreement on medical marijuana bill

Among OIA’s 42 million visitors each year, the Transportation Security Administration doesn’t actively search for marijuana, a representative told Eyewitness News on Tuesday. But she said if agents find it, they’ll notify local law enforcement, who would then be acting under GOAA’s policies.

The rules ban all forms of marijuana and its extracts, including items like the low-THC, high CBD medical cannabis Bruce Grossman relies on to fight chronic pain. He said he can’t imagine going on a trip without the medical marijuana.

“I would be in pain. Very simple,” Grossman said.

Read: Some proposed medical marijuana dispensaries don't meet Orlando criteria

A GOAA spokesperson told Eyewitness News the authority’s legal team had determined federal funding received by the airport could be rescinded if the OIA began tolerating marijuana on-site.

"If the federal government comes to look, to make a determination of whether the airport is following all federal laws and regulations, that we can say, "Here's our policy. We're following all federal law,'" Marchena said.

Though local laws and ordinances have legalized and decriminalized the drug in various capacities, federal law considers marijuana a Schedule I narcotic. It contains no exceptions for alternative formulations or medical usage.

"I think it's only a matter of time until things change,” Grossman said.

Eyewitness News asked whether airport officials whether waivers would be available for people who can't leave their medication behind, but received no response Tuesday.

Other airports rules

Representatives from the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport said if passengers have the proper documents, medical marijuana is allowed. And anyone at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport can have marijuana thanks to the state of Washington’s full legalization.

However, in Denver, any kind of marijuana is banned at the airport despite legalization in Colorado.

Ben Pollara, with United for Care, said since marijuana is being used by many people as a medicine, it should be treated that way by airport officials. 

"You wouldn't ask a patient to get on an airplane without their penicillin, and you shouldn't ask them to get on without their marijuana, if that's what their doctor has recommended," he said. 

Orlando police won't enforce OIA medical marijuana ban

The Orlando Police Department has said it will not arrest anyone lawfully carrying medical marijuana, even on airport property.

Airport administrators have not determined what the penalty would be for a passenger found by OIA staff lawfully carrying medical marijuana. 

The measure goes into effect immediately. The airport authority plans to post signs advising flyers of the changes and to document what’s prohibited on-site.

Myrtle Beach shooting captured in shocking Facebook Live video

When volunteer firefighter Bubba Hinson decided to visit the popular tourist destination Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the last thing he expected was to be live cameraman of a mass shooting.

In the video, which we are not showing in full due to its graphic nature, Hinson yelled, “Multiple people down!” after a gunman opened fire and sent a crowd of people scattering early Sunday.

>> Watch a news report with an edited version of the clip here (WARNING: Viewer discretion advised)

According to Myrtle Beach Online, three shootings occurred over the weekend in Myrtle Beach, leaving eight people wounded.

“If you’re watching this, stay away from Fourth Avenue North and Ocean Boulevard,” Hinson said while filming. “There’s multiple people been shot!”

He said later: “I thought they were dancing. That’s why I started filming it. Then they started fighting. Then they started shooting."

>> Read more trending news

WGHP reported that the shooter pulled out his weapon, fired and then carjacked a vehicle. The gunman reportedly was eventually shot by an armed security officer.

His name has not yet been released.

Although seven people were taken to the hospital, one of whom was the gunman, the injuries are not considered to be life-threatening, officials said.

Police said the gunman will be named once he is medically cleared to leave the hospital and warrants are served.

Read more here.

Southwest offers $39 flights to celebrate 46th birthday

Southwest is giving a present to customers in celebration of its 46th birthday.

The budget airline is offering low-priced flights with a sale that offers tickets for as low as $39 for a one-way trip, according to Travel & Leisure.

>> Read more trending news

The seats, travel days and markets for the offers are limited and blackout dates -- like holidays -- apply, according to the Southwest website.

Regional travel -- to and from East Coast cities, for example -- are the cheapest, with one-way travel from Oakland, California, to Reno, Nevada, at $39. 

Other trips include $130 one-way from Atlanta to Las Vegas or $132 one-way from Atlanta to Los Angeles; $59 one-way from Columbus, Ohio, to Washington; $69 one-way from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Nassau, Bahamas; and $135 one-way from Austin, Texas, to Seattle.

Travel & Leisure reported that most sale prices are on Monday through Thursday flights between August 22 and December 16.

Reservations for low-price tickets must be made by June 15 at 11:50 p.m. in the time zone in the city of departure. The tickets are non refundable.

The full list of destinations under the Southwest sale can be found at Southwest.com.

Longest Uber drives: Ride from DFW to Nashville totals 11.5 hours, 650 miles

An Uber driver might have earned nearly $1,000 with one drive.

>> Read more trending news 

Brent Pfieffer received a notification on his cellphone on Sunday night about passengers requesting a pickup at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. 

Soon after accepting the request, Pfieffer got a phone call from one of the customers.

“They said, ‘I have an issue here. I need these people delivered to Nashville, Tennessee,’” Pfieffer told WFAA.

The customers were travelers from China who had arrived in Texas on Sunday morning. Their connecting flight to Nashville had been delayed multiple times before it was finally canceled.

“The next flight they could get on wasn’t until Monday afternoon,” Pfieffer told WFAA. “And they had a business meeting at noon Monday they had to be at.”

The passengers piled into Pfieffer’s SUV, and the group rode 11.5 hours to Nashville, covering 650 miles.

“We had a few stops on the way,” Pfieffer said. “They spoke enough broken English [so] we could converse. They were in a good mood. They were upset they didn't have their bags and didn't get the flight, but other than that it was a fun ride.” 

Pfieffer said Uber still hasn’t processed the fare but he estimates he’ll receive about $800 from the ride after Uber claims its share of the fare. He also negotiated gas expenses with the customers.

The ride is believed to be one of the longest Uber drives completed.

Read more at WFAA.

Southwest Airlines offers limited-time $100 round-trip fares

For a limited time, Southwest Airlines is offering some of its lowest fares during one of its biggest annual sales. 

According to USA Today, the sale is one of two big limited-time sales offered by the airline each year.  

>> Read more trending news 

Dozens of the carrier’s shortest routes are available for $49 each way. Other non-stop one-way fares are offered for $79, $99 and $129 for longer flights. The prices of flights are loosely tied to distance, according to USA Today.

>> Related: American Airlines to decrease legroom for passengers

Discounted flights can be purchased for travel between Aug. 22 and Dec. 13 every day except Fridays and Sundays. Some days surrounding Labor Day and Thanksgiving holidays are not included.

Some international flights (Cuba, Aruba, Belize, Mexico, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Bahamas) are also being offered at extreme discounts. 

The sale ends Thursday, June 8 at 11:59 p.m. local time in the city of the departing flight. 

See more at Southwest.com.

>> Related: Delta will pay passengers up to $10K to give up seats

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