Not Your Average Travel Stories (and Video): Week of Oct. 21

This week: Filth from hell, celebrity news, gigantic trees and dreamy video (see below).

Giant Christmas trees: The national tree lighting ceremony in Washington is Dec. 6 (and there’s a lottery for tickets to see it), or go to Rockefeller Center on Dec. 4 to see the real tree (no personal bias here). Even better, check with FareCompare for cheap flights to Washington and cheap flights to New York.

Sleeping in airports sucks: At least it does according to Spirit passengers who had to spend the night in a Ft. Lauderdale terminal thanks to surprise safety inspections that temporarily grounded some flights. They should thank their lucky stars they didn’t have to sleep in the airport one traveler described this way: “I could not believe the filth from hell.”

Queen of the Skies: The once glam jumbo jet is losing popularity – big time. As the AP reports, “Some brand-new 747s go into storage as soon as they leave the plant.” Guess travelers have found shiny new planes to love.

Airport needs makeover: Or does it? The LA Times likes Burbank’s shabby charm, and the fact that you won’t find “massages and lattes” here. Then there are airports that go to the other extremes, with live butterfly habitats.

Celebrity airports: You already knew about John Lennon in Liverpool, right? But were you aware that Rimini’s airport is named for Federico Fellini? Would love to hear your favorite airport name.

Fly into space: In 2016, World View Enterprises plans to offer tourists rides on a balloon that’ll travel 19 miles up in the air, providing the kind of view of the earth that astronauts get (well, sort of). Tickets will be on sale within “the next few months” for $75K a piece. [Your chicken-hearted editor will not be taking the trip – will you?] See the excellent animation (video #1) below.

Could have been worse: An American pilot reported a fire in the cockpit on its way to Miami prompting an emergency landing(the airline disputes the nature of the problem, saying it was actually a “mechanical issue”) but all landed safely in paradise Turks & Caicos (find cheap flights to your favorite Caribbean island right here).

Merger approved but don’t go crazy just yet: The U.S. Bankruptcy judge signed off on American’s plan to merge with US Airways but added a big “but” – that his ruling has no bearing on the Justice Department’s beef with the airlines.

Gross celebrity incident: How to put this delicately? We can’t so we’ll just spit it out: Actor/hunk Ryan Reynolds was “puked on by drunk airplane passenger” according to news reports. No big deal to good sport Mr. Reynolds who simply whipped off his shirt and changed – much to the slack-jawed admiration of his fellow passengers (or so we imagine).

World’s longest flight: Could you endure flying for up to 21 hours non-stop? Not me! But some actually like Singapore Airlines’ Newark-to-Singapore route (length of the flight varies due to weather, etc. but it’s always at least 18 hours). If you want to give it a shot, hurry. The last flight departs Nov. 23.

Severe turbulence: A United flight from Newark to Dublin bounced all over the sky this week injuring 8 people including one who had to be hospitalized. The seatbelt sign was on. Do yourself a big favor: Any time you are seated on any plane, please buckle up. You don’t want to be pancake batter, do you?

This ain’t right: Airlines under fire for “mishandling” wheelchairs of people who can’t get around without them – in other words, sometimes they “break” them, especially motorized models that can’t be easily fixed. What else have airlines broken? Plenty, including guitars (see video #2 below).

Superstar arrest: Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell has apologized for that loaded gun in his bag at Sea-Tac last week. The 79-year-old legend said he forgot all about it (hey Bill, join the crowd). Note to the Celtic great: Try to avoid repeat performance when traveling to unveiling of your statue in Boston on Nov. 1.

VIDEO #1: Take a trip in space. About two minutes long and worth every second.

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VIDEO #2: Owner of broken guitar gets his revenge.

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Published: October 22, 2013