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Airline wins right to weigh passengers before flights to prevent crashes

An American airline was recently granted the right to weight its passengers in an effort to distribute weight evenly across plane cabins and to save fuel, The Guardian reported.

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Hawaiian Airlines faced backlash earlier this month when customers said a policy to weigh travelers was discriminatory. Critics' complaints to the U.S. Department of Transportation were turned down, a spokesman told The Associated Press last week.

Hawaiian Airlines began the policy when it noticed its flights from Honolulu to Pago Pago in American Samoa were burning more fuel than expected.

In an effort to discover why flights between the areas required more fuel than projected, the airline asked customers to participate in a voluntary six-month survey in which passengers were weighed before boarding.

The findings? 

Passengers and their carry-on bags were 30 pounds heavier than anticipated.

So the airline did away with preassigned seating and began weighing travelers at the Honolulu and Pago Pago airports at check-in to place people on planes in a way that more evenly distributes weight across cabins.  

"This action resulted from the recognition that over time, our fuel burn on Pago Pago (PPG) flights was consistently much higher than projected, indicating that our weight assumptions were inaccurate," Hawaiian Airlines communications director Alison Croyle told Fox News. "We review weights on any flight within our route network that demonstrates such a discrepancy." 

But some customers found the practice offensive, claiming that the move was discriminatory as it only applied to the Pago Pago flight, which caters to mostly passengers of Samoan descent.

"What they're saying is Samoans are obese," Atimua Mig told the Associated Press at Honolulu International Airport on Oct. 10.

"That's an entirely incorrect assumption," said Jon Snook, Hawaiian Airline's chief operating officer. 

Snook said the airline chose to reorganize distribution of passengers instead of limiting how many seats could be sold, which would have increased ticket prices.

As a part of the effort to evenly distribute weight across planes on flights, Hawaiian Airlines is aiming to leave one seat vacant on each row or to place a child in a row with two adults.

Hawaiian Airlines isn't the first to enact a weight-based policy. 

In 2013, Samoa Air became the first airline to charge passengers by weight.

"What makes airplanes work is weight," then, Samoa Air chief executive Chris Langton told CNN. "We are not selling seats, we are selling weight."

According to the CIA world fact book, information from 2007 and 2008 show American Samoa as having the highest rate of adult obesity in the world. The top nine countries on the list are Pacific islands. 

"Hawaiian (Airlines) is saying that, 'Yes, it is a safety issue,' but, you know, weight distribution," Avamua Dave Haleck, an American Samoan who filed a complaint with the DOT, told Radio New Zealand. "So have we been flying unsafe for all these years?"

New airline regulations would require baggage fee refunds for delayed luggage

Airline passengers are about to get new consumer protections under measures being rolled out by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The new measures include efforts to institute a requirement for airlines to refund checked baggage fees when bags are substantially delayed. Congress passed a bill in July to require refunds for delayed bags.

The DOT will also consider a new rule to require airlines and ticket agents to list prices with fees for extra services alongside fares.

“Airline passengers deserve to have access to clear and complete information about the airlines they choose to fly and to expect fair and reasonable treatment when they fly,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a written statement.

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The moves by the DOT come after an executive order issued by President Barack Obama directing federal agencies to consider how to better inform consumers and relieve burdens on competition.

Another requirement will call for large U.S. airlines to report how often they mishandle wheelchairs.

And online travel sites will be prohibited from displaying flights with bias toward certain airlines without disclosing that bias.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines said it has agreements with the most popular online travel agencies, but said some online travel agencies “have proven to have misleading, deceptive and/or fraudulent business practices.

Under the new federal measures, airlines will also be required to provide a clearer window into their operations, including figures on the total number of mishandled bags and checked bags, rather than only reports of mishandled bags and total passengers. They will also be required to report data on flights reported by domestic code-share partners.

Delta said it welcomes “refreshed reporting around baggage handling,” and said it has invested in baggage handling reliability. The airline also said it welcomes the code-share partner reporting requirements and prohibition of fare bias, and said it continues “to advocate for full transparency of the price of the ticket.”

Airline industry group Airlines for America said portions of the administration’s proposal could drive up the cost of air travel.

“Dictating to the airline industry distribution and commercial practices would only benefit those third parties who distribute tickets, not the flying public,” Airlines for America president Nicholas Calio said in a written statement.

Delta reveals new designer uniforms

Flying with Delta is about to get a lot trendier. 

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The airline debuted new designer uniforms for the company's workers Wednesday in Atlanta, where Delta is headquartered.

Fashion designer Zac Posen teamed up with Delta to create the new uniforms, which will be worn by more than 60,000 Delta employees, including customer service agents, flight attendants, ramp agents and technicians.

The uniforms are a "wholly-reimagined mix" of colors, including "Passport Plum, Cruising Cardinal and Groundspeed Graphite ... Skyline Slate and Traveling Thistle."

The new designs fuse "bold color palettes and classic styles, while paying homage to the heritage and iconic design from decades past," Delta said.

New styles include a V-neck dress, peplum sweater, skirt suit for female flight attendants and customer service agents.

"We wanted Delta employees to look glamorous on the job without sacrificing functionality and style," Posen said in a statement for Delta.

The airline said the uniforms, which are set to be distributed to all crew members by 2018, are "contemporary" and "elevate the look and brand of Delta employees."

"The world's best employees deserve the best uniforms, and this new collection is classically influenced, yet modern," Delta CEO Ed Bastian said.

Posen, who also serves as a judge on "Project Runway," said he worked "alongside employees to understand how they interact with the clothes they wear" to create the designs.

Posen has already created designs for celebrities like Uma Thurman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Claire Danes and Rihanna, USA Today reported.

"I never expected I would have the honor to work with one of the greatest airlines in the world," Posen said. "It's humbling."

According to USA Today, pilots' uniforms did not get updated.

Read more at Delta.

Google Flights will now alert travelers when flight prices change

Looking for the best deal on a flight? A new Google Flights feature might be able to help.

And it means a lot less frustration for those who have looked up prices for a flight only to check again days later and find a higher rate.

>> Read more trending stories  

Google's new feature will predict fare changes and notify users about price changes for flights they're interested in. 

"After selecting a specific flight, a notification may appear letting you know when the current fare is expected to expire and how much you can save if you book now," Google Flights product manager Nabil Naghdy wrote in a blog post.

The feature uses historical flight data to make predictions. 

Searching for flights between cities but don't have concrete dates?

A "Tips" feature recommends alternate airports and dates to help travelers find the best price for a route. 

Plus, if a customer isn't quite ready to enter his or her card information, the traveler can choose to track a flight or route and receive notifications via email with updates of prices changes and expected price changes. 

Google has said the new feature will be available "in the coming weeks."

 Read more at Google.

Brave visitors can spend night in 'Dracula's Castle,' coffins included

For the first time in nearly 70 years, visitors can sleep in Dracula's castle.

Bran Castle will play host to two people who are lucky enough to be chosen to spend the night there on Halloween night.

The contest is part of a promotion by Airbnb

The pair will have dinner and wine before retiring to their red velvet-trimmed coffins, according to the Associated Press.

But if coffins are too much, the guests will be able to sleep in beds. 

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The contest to find two brave souls to spend the night in the creepy Romanian castle started Monday.

Applicants were asked to imagine what they would say to Count Dracula if they met the vampire of legend.

The chosen will be flown to Romania and taken to the castle in the Carpathian Mountains.

Bran Castle hosts more than 630,000 visitors a year.

The event will be hosted by a descendant of writer Bram Stoker, Dacre Stoker, who will portray Jonathan Harker, the character in the elder Stoker's novel who encounters Dracula in the novel.

The contemporary Stoker will welcome his guests with the same words Dracula uses,"Welcome to my house! Enter freely. Go safely, and leave something of happiness you bring," the AP reported.

There are rules for the winning pair. There can be no garlic or silver jewelry with the notation that "The count is not a fan of mirror selfies." Also, no crosses are allowed and all curtains need to be closed before sunrise, according to the contest rules.

Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian king used by Stoker as the inspiration for Count Dracula, did not own Bran Castle, but it is believed to have been used by him during his battles in Transylvania. It is also tradition that he was imprisoned in the castle for two months in 1462 when he was captured by a Hungarian king.

Vlad Tepes impaled his victims as punishment.

For more on the contest, click here.

Deadline to enter is Oct. 26 at 11:59 p.m. CET.

Last year, Airbnb hosted a similar contest, to spend the night in the catacombs of Paris.

Cuban rum, cigars cleared to come into U.S.

Connoisseurs of rum and cigars from Cuba, you can now enjoy the vices legally.

President Barack Obama has lifted the restrictions on Cuba's rum and cigars in the latest in a round of executive actions that have opened the borders with the communist island nation, USA Today reported.

Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced in December 2014 that the two former enemies have eased tensions after more than 50 years. 

>> Read more trending stories  

The U.S. Treasury has issued the new rules concerning trade. Companies in the U.S. can now import Cuban-made pharmaceuticals and American companies can sell their products online. 

But the latest regulatory change that will get the most focus was the complete ban on rum and cigars from Cuba. 

The administration allowed $100 worth of rum and cigars in luggage in the the recent past, but now there is no limit to how much rum and cigars are allowed in checked luggage, USA Today reported.

Earlier this year, Obama eased the ban on travel to Cuba. Now, if travelers want to visit Cuba, it has to be declared an educational trip, meaning it's not technically vacation, but that visitors would meet and interact with the people of Cuba in normal settings, The Huffington Post reported.

There are actually 12 categories that a trip can fall under for a private journey to the island. The list includes not only educational trips, but also family visits, journalism or religious activities, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Daytona Beach hotel closures, storm damage cause concern for Biketoberfest

Every year about 150,000 descend on Daytona Beach for Biketoberfest, but damage caused by Hurricane Matthew has caused 20 hotels to close ahead of this weekend’s event.

Jennifer Cardwell made an 18-hour trip from Indiana to attend, but had no idea if her hotel was one of the ones affected.

>> Read more trending stories  

“It was a little bit nerve-wracking, just wondering if the hotel was going to be available when we got here,” she said. “Knowing that people were displaced the way it was in hotels.”

Cardwell said she spent a week trying to get through to the hotel by phone and online, but finally decided to risk it and packed up for the trip.

Fortunately her hotel, Tropical Winds Oceanfront, was not seriously damaged by the storm.

Of the 140 hotels and motels in the Daytona Beach area, 20 were closed by Hurricane Matthew, including the 740-room Hilton.

Local biker Rick Cole has been attending Biketoberfest for 20 years, but is concerned attendance could be down this year because of the storm.

Cole was one of the Florida residents who fled their homes ahead of Hurricane Matthew, and when he returned he was shocked by the damage.

“Our home is half gone,” he said. “The wind damage and the water damage is extensive.”

Damage in Daytona Beach and the debris that still litters the city could dissuade bikers from making the trip this year, Cole said.

Die-hard Biketoberfest fans will make it regardless, he added.

“They are going to come,” Cole said. “It’s Daytona, baby.”

Biketoberfest starts Thursday and runs through Sunday.

Airline creates child-free zone on flights

20 Florida Craft Breweries You Need to Visit

Florida has more than 100 craft breweries. Here are 20 to get you started. 

1. Proof Brewing Company, Tallahassee

Located in an industrial art park, Proof Brewing Company is helping put Florida’s Capital City on the map for craft beer with brews like Eightfive-O American Pale Ale and Mango Wit, which is made with organic mangos.

Try: Mango Wit

Also Visit:GrassLands Brewing Company in Tallahassee

2. Funky Buddha Brewery, Oakland Park

Using flavors like sweet potato casserole and blueberry cobbler, Funky Buddha brings bold flavors to South Florida’s emerging craft beer scene.

Try: Floridian Hefeweizen

3. Oyster City Brewing Company, Apalachicola

Apalachicola is known for its oysters, but Oyster City Brewing Company is making a name for itself with its beers, which are popping up on menus at bars and restaurants around North Florida. Oyster City also uses local ingredients, like tupelo honey, in many of its brews.

Try: Hooter Brown Tupelo Honey Ale

4. Grayton Beer Company, South Walton

Made famous by its 30A Beach Blonde Ale, Grayton Beer Company bottles that laid-back, South Walton state of mind with each beer it makes.

Try: 1890 Founder’s Ale

Also Visit: Idyll Hounds Brewing Company

5. Veterans United Craft Brewery, Jacksonville

This veteran-owned brewery in Jacksonville started as a passion project for Ron Gamble, a former Naval Flight Officer. Now, Veterans United beers like Raging Blonde Ale and HopBanshee IPA can be found throughout Northeast Florida.

Try: HopBanshee India Pale Ale

Also Visit: Intuition Ale Works

6. Engine 15 Brewing Company, Jacksonville Beach

Jacksonville Beach was something of a craft beer wasteland before Engine 15 pulled up in its 1970 Ford firetruck. The brewery quickly grew and is now operating a location near downtown Jacksonville.

Try: Nut Sack Double Brown Ale

Also Visit: Green Room Brewing Company

7. Orlando Brewing, Orlando

Orlando Brewing in Downtown Orlando has made a name for itself by using organic ingredients in its products and was certified as an organic brewery by the USDA in 2006. You’ll find several OBC beers at the restaurants and bars at Walt Disney World Resort.

Try: I-4 IPA

Also Visit: Ten10 Brewing Company

8. Orange Blossom Brewing Company, Lakeland

From the heart of Central Florida comes Orange Blossom Brewing Company which calls Brew Hub in Lakeland home. Its signature beer, Orange Blossom Pilsner, is made with local orange blossom honey.

Try: Orange Blossom Pilsner

Also Visit: Lakeland Brewing Company

9. Two Henrys Brewing Company, Plant City

Located at the Keel and Curley Winery in Plant City, Two Henrys Brewing Company makes everything from the classics like its 7 Mile Bridge IPA to the adventurous Roasted Jalapeno Blueberry Porter, brewed with blueberries harvested on site. 

Try: Roasted Jalapeno Blueberry Porter

10. Big Storm Brewing Co., Clearwater and Odessa


First opened in Odessa, Florida, Big Storm Brewing Co. is one of the fastest growing breweries in the Sunshine State, making waves with its Arcus IPA and Wavemaker Amber Ale. You can check out their taprooms in Pasco and Pinellas.

Try: Wavemaker Amber Ale

Also Visit: Pair O' Dice Brewing Company

11. Swamp Head Brewery, Gainesville

A brewery that touts itself as being ‘Inherently Floridian,’ Swamp Head Brewery takes pride in its beer and also its sustainable brewing practices. Many of the spent grains used in the brewing process end up nearby at the University of Florida for cattle feed.

Try: Stump Knocker Pale Ale

Also Visit: First Magnitude Brewing Company

12. Cigar City Brewing, Tampa

If you know one Florida craft brewer, it’s probably Cigar City Brewing and its wildly popular brews like Jai Alai IPA and Florida Cracker Belgian-style White Ale. Visit the taproom in Tampa and you might just see someone hand-rolling cigars in the corner.

Try: Jai Alai India Pale Ale

Also Visit: Ulele Spring Brewery in Tampa

13. Coppertail Brewing Co., Ybor City

Located just south of Ybor City’s 7th street, Coppertail Brewing Co. is doing craft beer in a big way. Aside from its impressive core beer lineup, which includes a Belgian-style American Trippel, Coppertail also has an extensive sour beer program that you can sample at the taproom.

Try: Unholy American Trippel

Also Visit: Tampa Bay Brewing Company in Ybor City

14. St. Somewhere Brewery, Tarpon Springs

For fans of traditional Belgian style ales, St. Somewhere is a true gem. This Tarpon Springs brewery specializes in century-old unfiltered farmhouse style ales produced in small batches.

Try: Saison Athene

Also Visit: Silverking Brewing Company

15. Dunedin Brewing, Dunedin

Noted as Florida’s oldest microbrewery, Dunedin Brewery offers a line of great drinkable beers, like its Apricot Peach Ale and Red Ale. If you visit the brewery, be sure to order the fried cheese curds.

Try: Apricot Peach Ale

Also Visit: 7venth Sun Brewing Company in Dunedin

16. McGuire’s Irish Pub, Pensacola & Destin

From the million-plus dollar bills hanging from the ceilings to its massive food portions, McGuire’s is a great place for a meal and a great beer. While you’ll only find its beer on-site, you can pick up a six-pack of McGuire’s Irish Red Ale in the gift shop.

Try: McGuire’s Irish Red Ale

Also Visit: Pensacola Bay Brewery in Pensacola

17. Green Bench Brewing Co., St. Pete

As the first microbrewery in St. Pete, Green Bench is making great beer inspired by its city. The Surrealist IPA, an American IPA blended with the tart qualities of a sour ale, was inspired by Salvador Dali’s fantastic artworks, which can be seen at the nearby Dali Museum.

Try: Green Bench IPA

Also Visit: Cycle Brewing in St. Pete

18. Crooked Can Brewing Company, Winter Garden

Located in a market in beautiful downtown Winter Garden, this young brewery has become a Central Florida staple with High Stepper American IPA and McSwagger’s Own Amber Ale. Why the name Crooked Can? Things tend to get a little crooked after a few brews.

Try: High Stepper American IPA

19. Cask & Larder, Winter Park

This “Southern Public House” in downtown Winter Park is a well-known hotspot for foodies, but Cask & Larder’s on-site brewery is making beer of the same caliber as the food.

Try: 5 Points IPA

20. Props Craft Brewery, Ft. Walton Beach

Founded by current and retired members of the military, this aviation-inspired brewery is doing big things with its beer. The Blonde Bomber Ale can be found in cans throughout Northwest Florida.

Try: Blonde Bomber Ale

Have a favorite Florida craft brewery that's not on the list? Let us know about it in the comments below.

-Stephen Kubiak


Sweets and Steampunk: Universal's Toothsome Chocolate Emporium

Great eats and extraordinary desserts await you at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen, a new full-service restaurant, bar and confectionery at Universal CityWalk.

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