Daily Archives: May 23, 2012

Woman told she can’t fly due to ‘offensive attire’

Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing — unless, it seems, you’re wearing your views on your clothes while on a plane.

On Monday, a woman wearing a T-shirt that read “If I wanted the government in my womb, I’d f--- a senator” on an American Airlines flight was reportedly told by the captain that she should not have been allowed to board and would need to change her shirt before boarding a connecting flight.


According to a story first reported by RH Reality Check, the woman, identified only as “O,” was flying home from Washington, D.C., when a flight attendant told her she needed to speak to the captain.

“When I was leaving the plane the captain stepped off with me and told me I should not have been allowed to board the plane in D.C. and needed to change before boarding my next flight,” she told RH Reality Check. “This conversation led to me missing my connecting flight.”

In response, American spokesman Tim Smith replied via e-mail: “The only reason she was asked to cover up her T-shirt was the appearance of the 'F-word' on the T-shirt. The [pro-choice] message is irrelevant to our policy and had no bearing in our crew’s decision to ask her to cover up the F-word. The outcome would have been exactly the same had the message been anti-abortion.”

Smith also cited the airline’s contract of carriage, the legal document that governs a carrier’s procedures regarding transporting passengers. It states that the airline may refuse transport or remove a passenger from a flight if, among other things, a passenger is “clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers.”

In fact, most airlines’ contracts of carriage include such clauses, although the language is sometimes open to interpretation. Southwest’s policy refers to clothing that is “lewd, obscene or patently offensive,” while Delta and US Airways simply refer to “not properly” or “inappropriately” clothed.

How such rules intersect with freedom of speech is also open to debate. “I doubt there’s any airline limitation on the First Amendment,” said San Francisco attorney Joe O’Sullivan, who represented University of New Mexico football player Deshon Marman last year after Marman was arrested over a disagreement about his saggy pants on a US Airways flight.

“The irony in the current case,” said O’Sullivan, “is that she went through several layers of personnel and was allowed to fly. It wasn’t until the conclusion of the flight that the ‘teacher’ criticized her.”

However, says Jeff Miller, a travel attorney in Columbia, Md., the pilot in this case was within his rights. “The bottom line is that the pilot controls the aircraft,” he told msnbc.com. “If the captain thinks other passengers may get upset, it becomes a safety issue.”

Which, it should be noted, it did not. After missing her connecting flight, “O” was given a seat on a later flight, which she boarded with a shawl over her T-shirt.

Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.

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Want to fly next to your child? Prepare to pay

Summer travel will become more costly this year now that airlines are charging more for aisle and window seats, in some cases $25 each way. NBC's Tom Costello reports.

It’s not just enough to buy your airplane ticket anymore: Increasingly, along with checking baggage, airlines want you to pay extra to ensure a seat next to your travel companions, including your spouse or child.

That’s sure to lead to unhappiness during the coming busy summer travel season, with passengers already toting their own suitcases and carrying their own food to avoid paying additional fees. In many cases, it may cost as much as $25 — each way — to ensure you and your companion sit together. And last month, United Airlines ended its policy of allowing families traveling with small children to board early, USA Today reports

It’s tough news for many summer travelers. Airlines have successfully raised airfares three times this year. Business travelers are already facing fares that will likely rise this year an average of four percent in North America, according to the Egencia's 2012 Global Corporate Travel Forecast. Egencia is an Expedia, Inc. company.

Regarding the seat reservation fees, it works like this: Airlines are reserving a growing number of window and aisle seats for passengers willing to pay extra for them, the Associated Press reports. While airlines say it's a move to boost revenue, the policy is making it harder for friends and family members who don't pay this fee to sit next to each other. At the peak of the summer travel season, it might be nearly impossible, the AP reports.

Since last summer, American, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines and United Airlines have increased the percentage of coach seats requiring some kind of extra fee. Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines charge extra for any advanced seat assignment, according to the AP.

“I think it’s going to fall flat on its face,” predicted travel psychologist Michael Brein, PhD, of Bainbridge Island, Wash. “It’s pushing the envelope a little far for travelers. People have had it up to here with fees, and this one sounds not so well thought out to me.”

George Hobica, founder and president of the Internet travel site Airfarewatchdog, said he thinks the fees are reasonable. “When you think about it, when you go to a theater, a Broadway play, you always pay extra for better seats. They’re doing the same thing.”

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Should airlines charge extra for window and aisle seats?

Airlines are having a tough time, Hobica points out:  “Two of our remaining airlines lost money last quarter, and the industry as a whole had a 1.5 percent profit margin. I’m all about low airfares — it’s been my stock in trade for almost 20 years. But the traveling public has had it good at expense of the airlines… People need to be honest and should buck up and say if they want these low fares, then the people who want special service should pay (extra) for it.”

One airline bucking the trend is the Seattle-based Alaska.

“We do not charge for priority seating, or seating together at Alaska Airlines,” said spokeswoman Marianne Lindsey. “We do hold some seats out for last-minute booking by our elite member frequent fliers and passengers with disabilities, but in general you should be able to find seats together for your family.”

Now and again, that can be a challenge, Lindsey said.

“In some instances, however, with full flights, families may not be seated together,” she said. “In this instance, we do all that we can to accommodate families requesting seating together, including asking if there are other travelers that would be willing to change their seats for the family. If all four cannot be seated together we try to at least get one parent with each child. Oftentimes, once families are onboard, other travelers offer to move to accommodate the family, and our flight attendants help facilitate this.”

Would you pay extra to guarantee a seat next to your traveling companion? Tell us about it on Facebook.

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Venice is sinking: See it while you can!

Ponte di Rialto, Venice Italy
By Ahmed Ahmed The Italian city of Venice has to be one of the world’s most famous treasures. It’s also one of the most endangered. Built on a foundation of boggy marshland, this beautiful city is slowly but surely descending into the lagoon it has occupied for centuries. It might be time to make your move. With Oh-Venice holiday apartments, you can enjoy your own piece of the Floating City before it melts away completely.

Ponte di Rialto

Venice has always been first and foremost a city of business. The Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge) is more than just a great photo-opportunity, it is a glimpse into Venice’s rich mercantile past. Here, for almost 800 years, merchants and money-lenders traded in gold from across Italy and beyond. If you want to do some commerce yourself, head into the market to pick up some Venetian souvenirs.

Piazza San Marco

The heart of Venice is the impressive Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), from a visitor’s point of view at least. The square is flanked by the Doge’s Palace, the historical seat of Venice’s powerful dukes, which is well worth a visit. You’ll also find St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice’s sumptuous religious centre, and the famous campanile, or bell tower. Climb to the top for a breath-taking view of Venice and its islands.

The Ghetto

Venice invented the ghetto. While today, the word refers to any ethnic concentration or deprived area, the Venetian ghetto was where the city’s Jewish population lived. Featured in Shakespeare’s classic play the Merchant of Venice as the home of Shylock and his daughter Rebecca, this fascinating area is still home to five synagogues. But avoid visiting late on Friday or on Saturday; the Sabbath means that most shops and restaurants are closed.

The Canali

Could anyone but the Italians have built one of the most attractive cities in the world in the midst of a waterlogged marsh? The beauty and the transience of Venice go hand in hand. Experts agree that it is subsiding; the wooden foundations and mud banks that lie underneath its stunning architecture are giving way. Instead of trying to fight this, the Venetians instead seem bent on enjoying their watery city while it lasts. And you should do the same. No visit to Venice is complete without taking a ride in a gondola, one of the hundreds of romantic rowboats that negotiate the city’s many canals.

Four climbers die on Mount Everest

A Colorado mountaineer recounts the harrowing details about the deaths of several climbers who perished over the weekend trying to reach the summit of Mount Everest. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

Updated May 23, 8:40 a.m. -- Four climbers died while descending from the summit of Mount Everest last weekend.

Three other climbers are said to be missing and feared dead, according to NBC News' Miguel Almaguer. 

Eberhard Schaaf, 61, from Aachen, Germany, who was climbing with the Eco Everest Expedition to remove decades-old garbage from the mountain, died on Saturday along the normal Southeast Ridge Route on the 29,035-foot peak.

Shriya Shah, a 32-year-old Nepal-born woman living in Canada, and a Korean, Song Won-Bin, also died while climbing down from the summit at the weekend, Tourism Ministry official Gyanendra Shrestha said.

"Schaaf died at the South Summit of Sagarmatha due to altitude sickness," said Ang Tshering Sherpa, chief of the Asian Trekking company that organized the expedition, referring to the Nepali name of the mountain. South Summit is about 28,697 feet high.


He said the body was lying on the mountain and that Schaaf's family as well as the German Embassy in Nepal had been informed.

"If the family wants the body to be brought down we will try, but it is very difficult to do so from that altitude," Sherpa said.

Over the weekend, a 73-year-old Japanese woman improved her own record and climbed the peak for a second time at the weekend becoming the world's oldest woman to scale the giant peak.

Related: 73-year-old smashes own record as oldest woman to climb Mount Everest

Two Sherpas have died so far this season -- one after falling into a crevasse and the other reportedly from altitude sickness, according to National Geographic magazine.  At least 236 people have died climbing Everest since 1950.

The deaths mark an already controversial season on Everest. On May 5, Himalayan Experience announced that it was canceling its expedition because of safety concerns. Minimal snowpack and warm temperatures, among other factors, had led to dangerous conditions, including rock fall and avalanches, the company said.

Michael Fagin, who provides forecasting services for Everest teams and runs everestweather.com from Redmond, Wash., said the spring had been very dry and windy. In the past week, winds had reached up to 80 mph; climbers on Everest prefer them under 30 mph.

Eric Simonson, Himalayan program director of International Mountain Guides, told msnbc.com last week that to cancel an Everest expedition so early was "quite unprecedented," but added it is unreasonable to expect every team to agree on how to handle difficult conditions.

"They’re betting on there being a problem and all the other expeditions that have stayed are betting on our ability to mitigate that problem. I don’t think it has to reflect poorly on anyone."

Related: Climber's sky-high dreams dashed far below Everest summit

Last week, the National Geographic-North Face expedition, led by accomplished mountaineer Conrad Anker, canceled its plans to summit via the West Ridge due to icy conditions, but will still attempt to reach the peak via a different route.

About 300 climbers remain on the mountain at different camps waiting for a window of good weather to try to climb the peak before the onset of annual monsoon rains next month, which effectively ends the climbing season in the Himalayas.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Rebecca Ruiz is a reporter at msnbc.com. Follow her on Twitter here.

More from msnbc.com:

Female pilot boots flier for sexist comments

A Brazilian airline says one of its female pilots tossed a passenger off a flight because he was making sexist comments about women flying planes.

Trip Airlines says in a Tuesday statement the pilot ejected the man before takeoff as he made loud, sexist comments upon learning the pilot was a woman. The jet continued on to the state of Goias after a one-hour delay.

The passenger involved in Friday's incident has not been identified. He was met by police at the plane and escorted out of the Belo Horizonte airport. Police at the airport have not responded to calls and it isn't known if the man has been charged with anything.

Trip says it won't tolerate disparaging remarks made about any of the 1,400 women working for the airline.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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