Month: May 2015

Now I always tell my daughter to try things at least once…. this ain’t one of them….I wonder if they will lose their Zagat rating?

Sad and horrifying and gross and true.

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A hotel restaurant in Anambra, Nigeria has been shuttered by authorities for serving human flesh. According to the BBC, suspicious residents told police of rumors that the restaurant was cooking human meat for customers. Police then raided the restaurant, where they discovered fresh human heads that were still bleeding. The blood was in the process of being drained into a plastic bag.

In addition to the illegal meat, authorities discovered automatic weapons, grenades, and cell phones. Ten people were arrested in conjunction with the crimes. One resident said, “Every time I went to the market, I observed strange activities going on in the hotel. People who were never cleanly dressed and who looked a bit strange made their way in and out of the hotel, making me very suspicious of their activities. I am not surprised at the shocking revelation.”

A priest who ate at the restaurant was alarmed when presented with a bill of 700 Naira, or roughly $3.50 (Tens of millions of people in Nigeria subsist on less than $1 a day). “The attendant noticed my reaction and told me it was the small piece of meat I had eaten that made the bill scale that high,” he said. “I did not know I had been served with human meat, and that it was that expensive.”

Last year, Australian chef Marcus Volke murdered and cooked his girlfriend before killing himself. In Brazil, also last year, a man and two women were arrested for murdering potential nanny candidates and then cooking their flesh into empanadas.

United rewarding hackers for bug testing

United Airlines is encouraging computer whizz-kids to help identify bugs on its website or mobile apps by offering a ‘bug bounty’ of free frequent flyer miles.

However the airline has said any testing of vulnerabilities onboard flights is strictly off-limits.

The carrier recently banned security researcher Chris Roberts who found security loopholes in United Airlines’ Wi-Fi and in-flight entertainment systems.

It said ‘any testing on aircraft or aircraft systems such as in-flight entertainment or Wi-Fi’ could result in a criminal investigation.

“At United, we take your safety, security and privacy seriously. We utilize best practices and are confident that our systems are secure,”  a statement said.

United will pay out miles on a sliding scale to friendly hackers who discover security holes.

This includes 50,000 points offered for finding scripting bugs, 250,000 points for testers able to access customer information and up to one million points for finding major security flaws that would allow a hacker to rewrite code on the United website or app.

Other tech companies such as Facebook and Google have similar programs which offer cash bounties of several thousand dollars depending on the type of vulnerability found.

“We are committed to protecting our customers’ privacy and the personal data we receive from them, which is why we are offering a bug bounty program — the first of its kind within the airline industry,” United said.

TSA slammed for flawed maintenance of passenger screening equipment

The US Transportation Security Agency (TSA) has failed to manage the maintenance of its airport screening equipment to such a degree it does not know if they actually work properly, a report claims.

An audit by the Office of Inspector General concluded the safety and convenience of air travelers could be impacted.

The audit found that TSA officials have not notified airports of the requirements for proper maintenance of the screening machines.

“Without diligent oversight, including implementing adequate policies and procedures and ensuring it has complete, accurate and timely maintenance data for thousands of screening equipment units, TSA risks shortening equipment life and incurring costs to replace equipment,” the OIG audit said.

“More importantly, our prior work on airport passenger and baggage screening demonstrated that these other measures may be less effective at detecting dangerous items. Consequently, the safety of airline passengers and aircraft could be jeopardised.”

The report calls for proper reporting and verifying data from maintenance contractors.

The TSA has preventive and corrective maintenance contracts with firms worth $1.2 billion.

The machines are used at 450 airports nationwide handling up to 1.8 million air travelers daily.

Icelandair to resume year-round Chicago flights

The Land of Fire and Ice is about to get a little closer for Chicago travelers from next year.

Icelandair 757
Icelandair 757

Flag carrier Icelandair is to resume nonstop year-round service from Chicago O’Hare to Icelandair’s hub at Keflavik International Airport.

Flights will run four times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, beginning March 16, 2016, offering connections to more than 20 destinations in Europe.

“We are excited to return to Chicago as a bigger, better airline that can best serve the dynamic market of this world-class city and its nearly 10 million inhabitants,” said the airline’s CEO Birkir Holm Gudnason.

“Icelandair’s decision to bring nonstop flights to Chicago not only demonstrates the attractiveness of our world-class city for tourism and business opportunities, but highlights O’Hare International Airport as a true global gateway,” added Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Icelandair previously served Chicago back in 1973 until the late-1980s and the return to O’Hare gives the carrier a presence at 15 North American gateways.

Other year-round services include Boston, Denver, Newark, New York-JFK, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

The airline also flies seasonally to Anchorage, Halifax, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Orlando, Portland and Vancouver.

Did the DoT just kill mistake fares?

Delta plane

We’ve all seen those too-good-to-be true airfares floating around, like this $187 round-trip fare from New York to Abu Dhabi, or this $10 fare to Hawaii. If you’re like me, you usually notice these deals just after the airlines have closed the glitch that allowed the insanely low airfare to begin with. Thousands of lucky souls have been able to take advantage of those mistake fares though, but the end of that era appears to be on the horizon.

Trouble first reared its head toward mistake fares when the Department of Transportation (DoT) didn’t force United to honor the $75 round-trip business-class from New York to London in February. Then, last month, American Airlines and Delta told frugal fliers that mistake fares would be harder to come by as both airlines clamped down on software glitches. Now the Department of Transportation appears to be taking things one step further to back up airlines.

Until the United incident, it was very difficult for airlines to change the price after they sell and ticket passengers, even if a glitch is in play, because of strict DoT rules. But in a memo sent out on Friday, the DoT said it would not be forcing airlines to honor mistake fares.

Part of the DoT statement reads:

“The Enforcement Office will not enforce the requirement of section 399.88 with regard to mistaken fares occurring on or after the date of this notice so long as the airline or seller of air transportation:

(1) demonstrates that the fare was a mistaken fare ; and

(2) reimburses all consumers who purchased a mistaken fare ticket for any reasonable, actual, and verifiable out-of-pocket expenses that were made in reliance upon the ticket purchase, in addition to refunding the purchase price of the ticket.”

Those expenses include non-refundable hotel reservations, destination tour packages or activities, cancellation fees for non-refundable connecting air travel and visa or other international travel fees. The burden still rests with the airline or seller of air transportation to prove to the Enforcement Office that a mistake fare is indeed a mistake fare.

The DoT has just given them a more legal foundation if they choose not to. Still, while United ended up not honoring the fare, some airlines still see it as good PR to do so.

Business travellers biggest airline complainers

US business travellers are nearly twice as likely to file a complaint for poor airline service than leisure passengers, according to a report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

The ACSI report says 20% of business fliers had made a complaint in 2015 compared to just 11% of those travelling on leisure.

“Business fliers fly more, they pay more and they have higher expectations of how they’re going to be treated. They tend therefore to complain more,” said David VanAmburg, ACSI managing director.

The report indicates that airlines are ‘going where the money is’ and better focusing on resolving high spending corporate travellers’ grievances.

Asked how well the most recent complaint was dealt with, business travellers rated airlines 59 out of 100 on the ACSI index.

In comparison, leisure travellers’ satisfaction was just 51 out of 100 points.

“I think the airlines probably have it about right in that they know who they should be focusing on, and with apologies to leisure travellers, it’s not them,” VanAmburg said.

“You’re going to go with where the money is, and that’s what airlines are doing. They are finding small ways to provide a little better service to those from whom they make the most money.”

He adds that business travellers are always more likely to experience a hitch due to the frequency of travel.

“Every time you fly, you’re rolling the dice. You fly once a month, those chances just mount that the bag might get lost, or the plane is delayed because of a storm, or there’s an unpleasant customer next to you that might make you unhappier with the experience.”

Tourists run from black bears in Yellowstone National Park

Tourists in Yellowstone National Park got a little too close to a mama bear’s cubs and ended up running for safety.

A black bear chased after onlookers with cameras after they surrounded three cubs on a road in the Montana section of the park last Wednesday.

In a video released by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, people run as the mother bear zigzags across the road and visitors scramble to get into their cars.

Someone yells, “Go! Keep moving!”

The tourists were “very much in danger,” Bob Gibson, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Communication and Education Program Manager, told USA TODAY Network.

“The most dangerous place is between a mom and her cubs,” Gibson said.

He says the cubs were about 13 months old so the mother was not as protective as she would have been with new cubs.

“If they had been born in the last few days it could have been much worse,” Gibson said.

The incident is a reminder that “wildlife can be unpredictable,” Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks wrote in a Facebook post.

Gisbon said people should remember that “wildlife and people don’t mix well.” The park requires visitors to “stay at least 100 yards away from bears.”

Proposed Reno-London flights grounded by Fed red tape

Reno airport’s highly anticipated nonstop transatlantic service from London has hit the buffer even before it got off the ground.

Announced in November amid much fanfare, UK carrier Thomas Cook planned seasonal services to Reno-Tahoe Airport from London, but these have now been cancelled due to border control red tape.

The problem stems from the lack of US Customs and Border Protection resources at the airport.

“It’s about customer service. Our customs facility here at Reno, the staffing they have, is not going to be able to clear the Thomas Cook passengers for almost three to four hours,” said Airport spokesman Brian Kulpin.

That was unacceptable to the airline. It doesn’t fit their customer service model so they cancelled the flight. Obviously, we’re disappointed.”

Kulpin said the airport has been seeking more funding for extra customs agents to speed up passenger processing.

“Unfortunately nothing is simple when it comes to the US government and US Customs and Border Protection. To get funding for more staffing at Reno is something that has to be done through Washington D.C.”

Kulpin added that it is doubly disappointing as ticket sales were going well.

“You know, they sold tickets with about half from the US. The other half came from Europeans. The flight was doing really well in terms of sales,” he said.