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Same-sex couple claim Southwest discriminated during boarding

A Florida same-sex couple claim Southwest Airlines refused to let them board with their three children and a grandparent as a family.

Grant Morse says the family was rebuffed at the family boarding area at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport in New York Saturday, The Associated Press reported. Morse said a Southwest Airlines gate agent told them that they were not a family, even though Morse told the agent that Morse and his husband, Sam Ballachino, are legally married. 

>> Read more trending stories

Morse said the family was forced to wait while other families were allowed to board, then the airline told them they'd saved four seats in the back of the plane, not enough for the family to sit together. Morse claimed that Ballachino's 83-year-old grandmother was placed in an emergency exit row seat.

Southwest defended its actions in a statement, saying that both parents were invited to board with their children but the third adult was not eligible to board under the airline's family boarding policy.

Memorial Day 2017: Travelers will hit highest level since 2005

If you plan to travel Memorial Day weekend, expect a lot of company.

A whole lot.

AAA said more than 39.3 million people are planning a holiday trip at least 50 miles from home - the most since 2005 and a 2.7 percent increase over last year.

Of those, travelers, 34.6 million - or 88.1 percent - will drive to their destination.

“We think it’s because of the increase in wages,” said Garrett Townsend, public affairs director for Georgia. “People are feeling more comfortable about spending money.”

Adding to that confidence, he said, are gas prices. 

>> Read more trending news

“While gas prices are certainly not as low as last year, they are much lower than they were in 2015,” he said. Even if they creep up “I don’t think it’s going to increase enough for people to change their plans.”

Here’s the bad news: airfares, car rental rates and mid-range hotels will probably cost you more this year.

Average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes will be 9 percent higher this Memorial Day, with an average round trip ticket landing at $181, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index.

Need a room? Plan to dig deeper.  The average AAA Three Diamond Rated hotel will cost roughly $215, or 18 percent more than 2016.

The top U.S. destination is Orlando.

AAA expects to help more than 330,000 motorists during the holiday weekend, with the main reasons being lockouts, flat tires and battery-related issues.

United to Texas national guardsman returning from Afghanistan: Pay up for bag

A national guardsman on his way home to Kyle, Texas, after a 21-month deployment in Afghanistan said United Airlines made him pay $200 to check a bag because it was too heavy to qualify for the airline’s free military baggage policy.

“I was told point blank that I’d have to pay $200 for the overage or find another bag to siphon stuff off with,” First Lieutenant John Rader, who was preparing to board a flight in El Paso Monday night when the incident happened, told FOX 7 Austin. “Well, I didn’t have another bag, so I was caught in a bind.”

>> Read more trending news 

United’s policy states that U.S. military and their dependents traveling on official business receive waived service charges for up to five checked bags at 70 pounds each. Because Rader’s bag, which contained items including a Kevlar vest, helmets and boots, was over 70 pounds, he said he was given no choice but to pay the fee.

“In the past, airlines have been very flexible to soldiers, whether its upgrading us in our seating arrangements, helping us with numerous bags we travel with often. This is the first time and an isolated case in my history where it’s actually occurred. It became upsetting when all you want to do is get home and you have a $200 charge thrown on top,” Rader told FOX 7.

Military baggage policies differ depending on the airline. Southwest offers active duty military an exemption from its two-bag limit and free baggage up to 100 pounds, while Delta allows two free bags up to 50 pounds for active duty military traveling on personal business.

A United representative said the airline has reached out to Rader in hopes of remedying the situation.

It hasn’t been a great year for the airline. In March, United received widespread criticism for barring two teens from their flight because they were wearing leggings. And in April, video footage of a man being forcibly removed from a flight made national headlines.

Read more about Rader’s experience here.

JetBlue CEO addresses birthday cake incident in which family was kicked off flight

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes went on “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday and addressed an incident on his airline’s incident that made headlines, in which a family was kicked off a flight after a dispute that started with a birthday cake.

>> Previous: A family says that they were kicked off an airplane over a birthday cake, but JetBlue is telling a different story

Here’s the video that was shared showing part of the incident:

And here is Hayes explaining what happened:

According to Hayes:

“What happened here was a customer stored two items. One was a cake, another was a bag, in a part of the airplane reserved for safety equipment, and we train our crew that those lockers have to be kept only for safety equipment.

“And the family concerned ignored repeated requests to move it. Our crew even moved it at one point for them, and they moved it back, and then they ... made some sort of allegations against the crew, and it got to a point where the captain felt, balancing the interests of all the other customers on the airplane and the crew, the right thing to do was to ask that family to leave the airplane.

“It was not about the birthday cake.”

Hayes’ explanation echoes a statement that JetBlue released on the incident. “(The customer) refused multiple requests from the crew to remove the items … became agitated, cursed and yelled at the crew, and made false accusations about a crew member’s fitness to fly,” the statement read.

>> Read more trending news 

It contradicts the family’s side of the story, as told by Cameron Burke, one of the passengers who was asked to leave the airplane.

“A flight attendant nicely asked me to remove the cake from that compartment, so I moved it to another one,” Burke told the New York Daily News. “She then asked me to move it to underneath the seat in front of me. I did.”

At that point, he said, another flight attendant showed up and started to scold the first attendant.

“You know, you could see the gestures, then she was pointing to her, ‘Did you tell him he couldn’t put anything in the overhead compartment?'” Burke told WABC-TV.

Burke said he decided to intervene.

“I had approached them, and I said everything was fine,” he said. “And she said, ‘Sir, this does not involve you.’

“She said I was being non-compliant,” Burke told the New York Daily News. “I said, ‘Miss, have you been drinking?’ Because her behavior was irrational, and she stormed off.”

Burke and his family were kicked off the plane shortly afterward.

Burke told WABC-TV that he didn’t yell or curse during the incident.

10 ways to save money on a trip to the beach

Temperatures are warming up, and the sand and surf are calling.

>> Read more trending news

A day at the beach is a great and inexpensive summer activity, but costs can creep up if you’re not careful.

Here are some tips on keeping your summer beach costs down:

1. Carpool

If you can easily drive to a beach, you know that it’s hard to find parking spots there. Both private and public beaches can charge an outrageous amount to park.

If you have four people going to the beach and parking is $20 a car, why take two separate cars? Carpool and split the cost among everyone.

>> Related: 10 inexpensive places to get away from it all

2. Bring your own food

There are usually plenty of food trucks, food carts and seaside restaurants around beaches, but the food can be overpriced.

One of the best ways to save money when you visit the beach is to bring a cooler of your own food. Prepare some sandwiches, throw in some fruit or other snacks, drinks, a bag of ice, and you’re good to go.

3. Buy food away from the beach

If you are going to bring your own food to the beach, consider buying groceries outside the beach town. Food prices tend to be almost double in high tourist areas because local markets know they can jack up the prices and people will pay.

4. Stay cheap

Consider booking a room in a motel or renting out someone’s summer house. You might not have a beautiful room, but there’s a good chance you’ll be paying significantly less, and the purpose of visiting the beach is to be outside, not in your room all day.

>> Related: 7 things more hotels are giving away for free

It’s also a great time to consider camping in areas where that’s acceptable. Get a tent and fall asleep to the sound of the waves.

5. Get a non-waterfront hotel

If you want to stay in a hotel, renting a room in a hotel that is not on the waterfront will save you money. Hotels close to the beach tend to be more expensive than hotels that are farther away from the beach, but sometimes the distance is no more than a few blocks and easily walkable.

6. Find free activities

While it might be tempting to rent jet skis or go scuba diving, those costs can climb quickly. Think about what you can do on a lower budget. For example, get some cheap snorkeling gear and explore the waters that way, instead of spending money on a scuba excursion.

7. Avoid beachfront stores

Beachfront stores are filled with touristy junk -- poorly made knickknacks that will fall apart and beach equipment that is overpriced. For example, you might find beach umbrellas there for twice the amount you’d find miles away.

Buy your towels, chairs, bags and umbrellas before you go on vacation or at a non-beach-related store away from the hotels and beaches.

>> Related: 7 things you should never buy at the airport

8. Budget

This is a basic need for any vacation, but it’s easy to look at a few days at the beach and think you won’t spend much money. You’ll probably be right, but there are other things on which you might spend your money, such as food, entertainment or souvenirs. Going on vacation without a set budget can easily cause you to spend more money than you intended.

9. Go during the offseason

Offseason is a relative term for a beach vacation. Offseason on Cape Cod is much different than it is in Florida.

Offseasons are generally from September to November or late February to early May. You’ll find that hotels and flights are cheaper and they’ll be less hassle while you’re visiting the beach and other attractions.

10. Transportation

Many large, popular beaches are near many different amenities and attractions. You might want to see what type of public transportation is available or if you’ll need to rent a car. If there is a decent public transportation system, take advantage of it instead of renting a car.

Better yet, if everything you need is nearby, walk everywhere.

If you’re planning day activities, your hotel might also have free shuttle services.

>> Related: Adult summer camp with alcohol, no counselors, debuting in new cities this year

Owners of giant rabbit that died on United Airlines flight threaten lawsuit

United Airlines suffered another problematic PR situation Monday, with the threat of a lawsuit surrounding the death of a giant rabbit who died onboard a flight last month.

The 3-foot-long rabbit named Simon — who was en route from his breeder in London to his new owners in Iowa — was found dead in his crate after the plane stopped in Chicago.

>> Giant 3-foot rabbit found dead on United Airlines flight

According to ABC News, although the airline apparently reached an agreement with the breeder on Monday, the would-be owners, a group of Des Moines-area businessmen who had bought Simon and intended to display him at this summer’s Iowa State Fair, are threatening legal action. Simon had been expected to grow to as much as 40 pounds, which would have made him the world’s largest rabbitCBS News reported.

The would-be owners are not only upset about his death but also are questioning why he was cremated so quickly.

>> Read more trending news

Their attorney, Guy Cook, said they are "requesting that United Airlines re-evaluate its policies with respect to the transportation of pets and ask that they take responsibility for this incident," ABC News reported.

United spokesman Charles Hobart said the airline is reviewing a letter from the owners' attorneys and "takes its responsibilities in transporting pets seriously," ABC News reported.

Read more here.

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

Mom thanks flight attendant who helped soothe fussy baby during flight

A mother is thanking a flight attendant for helping to soothe her 4-month-old baby when “all hell broke loose” on a flight.

>> Watch the news report here

Whitney Poyntz was traveling with her husband and daughter to Calgary, Alberta, from Palm Springs, California, on the WestJet airline. Everything was going smoothly until her daughter, Kennedi, started to cry.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

“Once the captain came on the intercom it woke her up, which is obviously no one’s fault,” Poyntz wrote on WestJet’s Facebook page. “About 30 minutes later, all hell broke loose.”

>> Read more trending news

Poyntz said her fellow passengers were clearly not happy.

A flight attendant named Ashley approached her and offered to help. She walked baby Kennedi up and down the aisle until she stopped crying.

“I was amazed someone wanted to help like that,” Poyntz told ABC News.

Neighbors complain after Disney World tests fireworks show late into night

Disney World and fireworks go hand in hand, and the Wishes show at Magic Kingdom is something that visitors and neighbors, such as Lynda Salerno, know well.

>> Read more trending news 

“It’s part of Disney. That’s why I moved here, to be part of it,” she said.

But late Tuesday night, the booms went on and on, all the way into Wednesday morning.

“Yeah, you know, it’s kind of crazy. First you hear the ‘pow, pow, pow,' then you know it’s the fireworks,” said Charles Loachmin.

>> READ: Disney World fireworks show causing brush fires despite burn ban, union says

Warning signs were posted at the parks and pamphlets were distributed to let guests know that a new fireworks show would be tested from 11:45 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Residents in the area said it went even later into the morning.

Some took to social media to share their annoyance, including one post that read: “Somebody needs to teach the rat how to tell time. It’s 1:30 now.”

Disney’s website shows that the new show will be called “Happily Ever After.”

Loachmin said he normally loves seeing the shows from his backyard, but this time, the timing was too much.

“During the nighttime, especially early that morning, it’s kind of crazy,” he said. 

American Airlines to decrease legroom for passengers

A ticket for an American Airlines flight will soon afford passengers less leg space on planes. 

>> Read more trending news

According to CNN, the airline will decrease space between seat rows in economy class by 2 inches.

The move is meant to allow for more seats per plane and will affect the airline’s new Boeing 737 Max jetliners, CNN reported.

The space will decrease from 31 inches to 29 inches on three rows of the airplanes. It will decrease to 30 inches in the rest of planes’ main economy cabins. 

>> Related: American Airlines first officer dies after collapsing on flight

Low-cost airlines like Spirit and Frontier offer the least amount of legroom at 28 inches. 

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have pitch spaces -- the distance between seats -- averaging between 30 and 31 inches, while JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines have between 31 and 33 inches, according to CNN.

A source also told CNN that bathrooms on American Airlines’ new 737 Max jets will be smaller. 

>> Related: WATCH: American Airlines flight attendant confronts mother with stroller

An American Airlines spokesman said the airline will order 100 737 Max jets and plans to begin flying the first planes domestically later this year. Rollout of the planes will continue into the next few years.

Read more at CNN.

>> Related: American Airlines flight diverted to Florida airport after passenger spills soda

Flight attendants say air inside planes can be toxic

WSB-TV has learned that three airline crews in Atlanta in the past year had emergency medical care after they say fumes on board their planes made them sick.

The director of Georgia's Poison Control Center told WSB-TV’s Tom Regan that the agency received emergency calls three different times in the past year about flight crews falling ill at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

>> Watch the news report here

The jet engines that take you into the air also draw in the air you breathe.

Despite filters, that air sometimes contains invisible fumes that can sicken crews, drawing an emergency response at airports. 

Dr. Gaylord Lopez of the Georgia Poison Control Center told Regan, "We had 13 patients exposed over the past year related to airplane fumes."

He described the symptoms as "coughing, choking, gagging, wheezing, shortness of breath. One felt like they could not breathe anymore."

>> Read more trending news

Lopez said in one case, a ground supervisor also became ill.

"They went to investigate. They breathed the air and they got sickened as well," Lopez explained.

Pressurized cabin air is drawn through the jet's engines. It’s called bleed air. In the engine's oil is an additive called Tricresyl phosphate, or TCP.

If there's a leak or other mechanical issue, fumes from the chemical could circulate into the cabin, affecting passengers, but more often the flight crew.

"I couldn't think. I had nausea. I felt dizzy. I had a headache," said former flight attendant Vanessa Woods.

She said that when she worked for Alaska Airlines, she and three other flight attendants were taken to the hospital after breathing the fumes. The doctor said they had hydrocarbon exposure.

Woods says it has caused neurological issues that have made it impossible for her to work. She and the other flight attendants filed a lawsuit against Boeing, the manufacturer of the plane.

"I want Boeing to make changes. They need to put in sensor alarms, redesign the planes," Woods said.

ON WSBTV.com:

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In a statement, Boeing told Regan, "The air in our airplane cabins is safe. Boeing's bleed air systems meet all applicable FAA requirements, and an overwhelming body of scientific evidence confirms the safety."

"We know that pilots and flight attendants are getting sick from toxic fumes," Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants told WSB-TV.

Based on a 2016 study from Kansas State University, the flight attendants union estimates there are five fume events each day on airlines worldwide. Most are minor, but the union says there's a risk.

"It's a real concern. Because if a crew member can become incapacitated, and there's a pilot flying the plane, that can be very dangerous to everyone on board," Nelson said.

A WSB-TV investigative producer dug through FAA reports and found more than 100 possible fume events on commercial airlines in the past year. In nine cases, illnesses were reported. The reports filed with the FAA come from a variety of airlines and a variety of planes.

>> ON WSBTV.com: PHOTOS: "The Dirty Dozen" airplanes with the most reported fume events in the past year

"We know that it happened, not only with crews, but passengers that might be closer to the front part of the plane because of the way air circulates and where it starts coming into the plane," Lopez told Regan.

The FAA told WSB-TV that fume events are rare considering the millions of flights in the U.S. every year. The agency also says cabin air is as good or better than the air found in offices or homes.

But the flight's attendants union says more can be done to ensure the safety of the crew and passengers.

“The only way to solve this issue is to build aircraft with alternative air circulation means," Nelson said.

The Boeing 787 is the only commercial plane that doesn't use a bleed-air system.

The flight attendants union says it's working with Congress to require new fume sensors and filters on airplanes. Airbus, like Boeing, says its cabin air is safe.

In response to WSB-TV’s report that Spirit Airlines had 11 out of the top 12 planes with the highest number of reported fume events in the last year, a spokesperson sent the following response:

"Thank you for taking the time to look into this issue. As you heard from the FAA, these events are very rare. To show the rarity of such events, in the time frame you researched (since May 1, 2016), we have had well over 150,000 individual flights, of which 41 have had an odor event. That’s a ratio of 0.000027 of flights. The reason you see more reports of odor events on Spirit aircraft is because we aggressively report our incidents. We have encouraged other airlines to also report their incidents, as well, with the hope of better research and understanding the root causes. While these odor events are very rare, we take each and every incident that takes place on one of our aircraft very seriously. In fact, Spirit is an industry leader in investigating and researching the various causes of these odor events. We have invested substantial dollars on detection equipment to help detect particulates that cause odor events on aircraft. We have also installed a new, more robust air filters on our planes in an effort to reduce the frequency of such events.

"It’s important to note that odor events happen to every airline and every type of aircraft that uses bleed air, and has been an issue in the industry for decades. To call these fume events is mostly hyperbole. There are many reasons the air odor on aircraft can change. It could be because planes are flying through rain clouds and moisture gets into the aircraft's air system; foul odor outside the aircraft that gets through air filters; and yes, it could be because oil or hydraulic fluid odors get past air filters and into the bleed air. All sources of foul odor can be uncomfortable for passengers and crew – but to say these odors are toxic fumes or harmful – is an overstatement. That said, we understand the concern people may have regarding such odors, and that is why Spirit is leading the industry in trying to understand the root causes of the different odor events, with a goal of preventing and hopefully eliminating them in the future."

American Airlines, which also had one plane in the top 12, sent this statement:

"The health and welfare of our crews and customers continues to be our top priority at American Airlines. We take cabin odor issues seriously and have devoted extensive efforts over time, including working with aircraft, engine and auxiliary power unit manufacturers, to address these types of concerns. Our Technical Operations team actively monitors and conducts in-depth inspections whenever a cabin odor event is reported by one of our crewmembers. Our team members are encouraged to report any issues so that we can make improvements to their work environment."

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