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airlines behaving badlyThis post is part of our “Airlines Behaving Badly” series, which chronicles the oft-wicked ways of the air travel industry.

Those of us who fly frequently don’t usually get too surprised anymore by stories of airlines treating passengers like cattle. Yet the experience of a disabled U.S. Marine aboard a Delta Air Lines flight earlier this week shows that the airlines are capable of sinking to shocking new lows.

The Washington Post reports that Marine Lance Corporal Christian Brown, a double amputee wounded a year ago in Afghanistan, was “‘humiliated’ to the point of tears on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Washington after being clumsily wheeled to the back row of the plane, according to a complaint sent to the airline by an outraged fellow passenger.”

The passenger, retired Army Colonel Nickey Knighton, said that Brown was offered a seat in first class by another traveler, but flight attendants would not allow the switch because the doors had been closed for take-off and no one was supposed to move around the cabin. Instead, Knighton wrote, Brown was “paraded through the aircraft,” leaving him “visibly upset.” The Post reports that Brown was ill with a fever at the time and was traveling to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment.

It’s unclear why Brown was brought onboard so late in the boarding process; Delta’s own Traveling with Disabilities brochure says that “Preboarding is offered on any Delta flight if you meet all check-in requirements and notify the gate agent.”

Delta’s corporate communications office responded to the incident with this statement, quoted in the Post: “The story in no way reflects either Delta’s standard operating procedure or the very high regard we hold for our nation’s service members. We are sorry for the difficulties that transpired and are investigating this event to determine the appropriate next steps.”

Spirit Airlines Denies Refund to Dying Vietnam War Vet

On Brown’s Facebook page was a comment from another Delta employee that seemed a bit more heartfelt:

“So sorry for your treatment on Delta,” wrote Facebook user Demian David Brooks. “As a pilot for Delta, I just wanted to tell you that we are with you, and when I fly, there are no more important passengers than our military. I personally do everything in my power to ensure all military personnel have a great experience on Delta. I have proudly transported many Wounded Warriors and make it a point to introduce myself and say thank you for your service. I have transported fallen heroes and always stand on the tarmac at full salute to pay respects. A few weeks ago in the terminal, I was fortunate enough to see 3 military personnel in uniform, and secretly paid for their lunch as I slipped away. Again, from one line pilot, sorry. And thank you for your service.”

The Real Reason Fliers Hate the Airlines

— written by Sarah Schlichter

enter to win In last week’s Friday Free-for-All, we challenged our readers to pen a funny travel limerick. We got several responses — including a naughty few we couldn’t publish — and all made us smile and laugh. But two tickled our funny bone the most, and a hot debate over which should be our winner quickly spread through the IndependentTraveler.com office.

After the dust had settled, a winner did emerge … drumroll please.

The winner of IndependentTraveler.com’s Travel Limerick Contest is Bob Schantz, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. His winning entry is:

The baby behind me is crying
These seats make me feel like I’m dying
My butt is so sore
I can’t take anymore
Next time I am driving not flying.

The runner-up is Kenneth A. O’Shaughnessy, who has won our eternal gratitude for making us laugh. His entry was:

Once a guy who had never gone
Any farther away than his lawn
Won a trip from online
He liked travelling fine
So he only returned home to spawn.

10 Ways to Survive a Long-Haul Flight

— written by Dori Saltzman

Beyond the experience of a trip itself, one of the true pleasures of traveling is looking back on your journeys, remembering your favorite moments, and sharing those memories with family and friends.

We’ve found a cool new way to do just that, and now we want to share it with you. Lightravels offers world and U.S. maps with illuminated light pegs that you can use to mark the countries and cities you’ve visited in a colorful, visual way. The framed maps, which weigh about 10 pounds and measure 33 x 22 x 3 inches, come with 60 light pegs in six different colors — perfect for showing which places you’ve visited on different journeys. Watch the video below to learn more:

The maps retail for $229.99 plus shipping, but Lightravels is giving one away for free to one lucky IndependentTraveler.com reader. To win, leave a comment below telling us which map you’re most interested in and why you want to win it. (You can see the selection of world maps here.)

You must enter by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 31, 2012. A winner will be chosen at random from all entries received. Be sure to include a valid e-mail address so we can contact you in case you win. This giveaway is only open to residents of the 48 contiguous United States or the District of Columbia. Please click here for the full contest rules.

If you’d like to purchase a map, Lightravels is offering our readers an exclusive 10 percent discount through March 31, 2013. To get the discount, call the company at 1-800-935-3410 and mention that you saw this post on IndependentTraveler.com. (If you buy a map and then win the free one, Lightravels will offer a refund.)

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. June Ahmed of Dover, NH, is our winner. Congratulations to June! Please keep an eye on our latest blog posts at Have Tips, Will Travel for more chances to win great travel gear.

— written by Sarah Schlichter

gift beach palm treeTravel-related gift guides for this year’s holiday season are, no question, a helpful way to get a bead on what’s fun and new for the travelers in your life. They’re also alarmingly efficient, especially those that you find online, because with a couple of clicks on the keyboard, you’ve bought and shipped. Marvelous.

But there’s a downside. These online gift guides are proving to be way too tempting for self-indulgence. Thanks to Cruise Critic, IndependentTraveler.com’s sister site, I’ve learned about Gin & Titonic, a ship and iceberg ice cube tray that describes its appeal as “watch the ship sink in your drink.” Price: a paltry $8.65. How could I not treat myself?

Holiday Travel Ideas and Advice

Over at the New York Times travel section, a pack of paper soaps for $5 (great for washing clothes on the road) is a brilliant idea — so brilliant I bought a stash.

And on Conde Nast Traveler’s “Daily Traveler,” the Rimowa Limbo Multiwheel hard-sided carry-on in midnight blue, boasting a breathtaking $875 price tag, would strain my budget — but boy, is it gorgeous.

The first item on CNN’s list grabbed me right off: an iPhone lens dial with three different lenses for $250. I’m thinking of it as an investment in my photo shooting ability (or lack thereof).

Perhaps there ought to be a guilt-relieving gift-buying ratio for the holiday season. What would you think is fair — say, after every five presents bought for someone else, we all deserve a little treat for ourselves?

It’s also only fair to say that the travel gift that got me most excited to give — to others! — is one I found right here on IndependentTraveler.com. (See 10 Unexpected Holiday Travel Gifts for the full list.) On Excitations.com, I can pick out fun tours, like kayaking in San Francisco Bay or feeding a big cat in Miami. Best of all? I can personalize each experience to meet the travel interests of my gift recipients.

Sure is a lot more fun than an Amazon gift card.

10 Tips for Holiday Travel

— written by Carolyn Spencer Brown

Suffering from the Monday doldrums? For everyone out there facing the beginning of another work week, here’s a little jolt of wanderlust to brighten up your morning. Each Monday, we offer a photo of a spectacular place to spark ideas for your future travels.

Today’s shot is of beautiful Millaa Millaa Falls in Far North Queensland, Australia.

millaa millaa falls far north queensland

25 Ways to Save on Australia Travel

Send us your best travel shot! E-mail your most beautiful or captivating travel photo to feedback@independenttraveler.com. (Please put Monday Inspiration in the subject line.)

In Your Face: 9 Up-Close Animal Encounters

— written by Sarah Schlichter

enter to win In this week’s Friday Free-For-All we want you to get your creative juices flowing. Between now and Thursday, December 13, IndependentTraveler.com challenges you to write your most clever travel limerick.

The writer of the funniest, cutest or just simply our favorite limerick will win a handy-dandy IndependentTraveler.com traveler mug. Please keep our posting rules in mind, and keep those limericks clean!

To help you get started, here are a few travel limerick examples, written by staff in the IndependentTravler.com offices.

A traveler once went to Belize
In search of a balmy sea breeze
She found jungles galore
Mayan ruins and more
Plus reefs underneath turquoise seas
– Written by Sarah Schlichter, Editor

There once was a gal from New Jersey
Who fled upon turning 30
So she traveled and sailed
Flew ’round the world and prevailed
And ended up with a pretty great journey
– Written by Dori Saltzman, News Editor

I once spent a night on a peak,
Where thin air had rendered me weak.
In my mind I was Incan,
Sun-child unblinking.
Descend now, I’m starting to freak!
– Written by Dan Askin, Senior Editor

Top 10 Books for Travelers

— written by Dori Saltzman

japan airlines kfc kentucky fried chickenForget sushi — on your next Japan Airlines flight, you could enjoy a homegrown American favorite: KFC (once known as Kentucky Fried Chicken). The airline recently announced that for the next three months, meal service on select U.S. and Europe flights will feature a two-piece chicken meal from KFC, including a drumstick, a chicken breast fillet, coleslaw, flat bread and lettuce leaves (which you can use to make a chicken sandwich).

KFC will be available during the second meal service on premium economy and economy flights from Tokyo’s Narita airport to New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, London, Paris and Frankfurt, through February 28, 2013. According to the airline’s press release, “KFC is widely popular in Japan particularly during the Christmas season.”

Personally, I’d rather have sushi. But I guess KFC is as delicious and exotic to the Japanese as sushi is to us Yanks!

Why Airline Food Stinks: A Scientific Explanation

Do you like the idea of a fast food chain serving up airline meals, or do you get enough fast food in the airport? Vote in our poll and leave your comments below.

5 Foods to Avoid Before Flying

— written by Sarah Schlichter

angry man steamHow does a mild-mannered person transform into the Incredible Hulk? Try flying on a midnight redeye with a mini-Muhammad Ali sitting behind you. While society dictates that we not act like, well, you know, there are times when no unwritten rule about screaming in Spanish at children or delivering soapbox speeches to annoying fellow passengers can be heeded. I apologize for losing my cool … but here’s what happened.

Toe to Toe with a Toddler
On a redeye from Quito to New York, an infante diabolico shared the seat behind me with his mother. We took off and the punching began. He was a prize fighter in training, standing deftly on mom’s lap, using my seat as a fast bag. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. Wait for your opponent to swivel and shoot you the first of a few startled looks. Stay patient. Dance. Weave. Laugh. Taunt. Then … tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. Good, the opponent is getting angry. When you see his face turn crimson and steam curl up from his ears, he’s at his most vulnerable. He’s lost control.

Tap, tap, tap … “Termina el golpeando! Termina el golpeando! Otra vez y otra vez y otra vez!” Summoning my high school Spanish, I made my counterattack.


“I’m sorry,” mumbled Mom.

No more punches.

Still, I think all ringside judges, staring wide-eyed or stifling shocked guffaws, would agree: I fought a little unfair.

10 Annoying Habits of Our Fellow Travelers

Now Boarding Zone Crazy Eyes
After 48 hours exploring Chicago — Wrigley, Millennium Park, blues club, deep dish — sandwiching four hours of sleep, it was time to fly home to Boston. With the gate lice working their beady eyes, boarding began. First class. Passengers traveling with small children. Zone Two and so on. I was in Zone Two and queued up accordingly. By the time I neared the ticket agent, the floodgates had opened. All zones. To my left, a slight woman, aged 45 to 55, materialized. “I’m Zone Two, do you mind if I jump in?” she said with a warm smile.

“Actually, I do.”

I then proceeded to deliver a lunatic’s lecture about society crumbling if people didn’t follow basic rules, about arriving on time to take advantage of zone privileges and about how she was doing a disservice to everyone on the plane by even asking. “Are you the type of person who has never been told no? Your kind doesn’t deserve to find space in the overhead bin.”

Save for my parents and girlfriend, I’ve never experienced such a look of pure twitching rage. She could no longer form words. She stood, abuzz, gazing into space, as Zones Two, Three, Four and Five slid by.

I had gone too far again. A fellow passenger disagreed. “Thank you,” she said as if I had given a kidney to her brother.

18 Ways to Keep the Peace with Your Travel Companion

I know — you hope you never have to fly with me. But how would you have handled each situation? Have you ever lost your cool at 35,000 feet?

— written by Dan Askin

men women airplanesI don’t usually buy into gender generalizations, but several assertions in the most recent Wall Street Journal Middle Seat blog rang true with me as a female flier. I do like to check a bag, I do try to make myself as small as possible in my airplane seat, and I don’t care if I’m flying on a 737, 747 or 1234 as long as I get where I want to go.

According to the blog post, entitled “He Carries On, She Likes to Check,” the plane travel habits of men and women can vary drastically.

In simple terms, she likes the window seat with the shade pulled down, while he likes the aisle seat and wants the shade up.

Women’s Travel Tips

Other differences: She checks bags, while he carries on. She curls up in the corner of her seat to avoid contact with strangers, while he dominantly claims his space and the armrests. She wants a blanket; he doesn’t get cold.

While I actually prefer the aisle seat and don’t much care if the shade is up or down, I do prefer to check a bag – I just don’t want to be bothered with having to lug a suitcase around with me – and I will grab a blanket if one is available.

And I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve sat next to a man who takes up every bit of space he can get away with, including both armrests (if he’s in the middle) and even some of my legroom. And what do I do about it? I curl up in the corner and hope we never make contact!

Surviving the Middle Seat

Another generalization into which I fit – he (my husband included) can tell you what type of plane you’re flying on at first sight, while she couldn’t care less.

Do you recognize yourself in these generalizations?

— written by Dori Saltzman

Suffering from the Monday doldrums? For everyone out there facing the beginning of another work week, here’s a little jolt of wanderlust to brighten up your morning. Each Monday, we offer a photo of a spectacular place to spark ideas for your future travels.

Today’s shot is of ice skaters in Central Park, New York City — one of our favorite places to be during the holidays.

ice skating new york city central park winter skyline

Photos: Away from Home for the Holidays

Send us your best travel shot! E-mail your most beautiful or captivating travel photo to feedback@independenttraveler.com, and we might feature it on our blog. (Please put Monday Inspiration in the subject line.)

Six Super Spots to Stay in the Big Apple

— written by Sarah Schlichter