United Cops Record Fine for Stranding Passengers on Tarmac

newark  nj   oct 5  united...
Shutterstock / Songquan Deng

United Airlines has received a hefty penalty for keeping passengers waiting on airplanes for hours on end while their flights were delayed. The Department of Transportation fined the carrier $1.1 million-the biggest fine of its kind so far-for tarmac delays that happened at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport last year.

Rules that were put in place in 2010 state that airlines will be penalized if they keep passengers waiting around on the tarmac for more than three hours. In United’s case, all the rule breaking happened on one particularly stormy day when 13 separate United flights were delayed because of thunder and lighting. According to the rules, United was meant to give passengers the chance to get off the plane as it was obvious flights would be held up. But the carrier didn’t. And to top it off, bathrooms on the some of the delayed planes weren’t working, leaving passengers in the lurch.The Department of Transportation says United didn’t do a very good job handling the situation and didn’t reach out to other airport personnel for help. The Department of Transportation also slammed the airline for not having a good plan in place to deal with weather-related problems in general. Some of the money from the fine will go to passengers affected by the delays, while another portion will go towards creating a tracking system at O’Hare so United can better monitor its planes.

Tourists Pay To Hunker Down In East German Bunker

bunker sign
Martin Abegglen, Flickr

Sleeping in rickety old beds, eating bland food that you’re forced to cook yourself and being bossed around by hotel staff hardly sounds like a fun travel experience, but tourists in Germany are paying $150 a night for exactly that.

It’s all a part of a unique experience that gives travelers the chance to experience life as it was for soldiers in East Germany. Visitors are taken to a forest 200 miles outside of Berlin where they spend the night in the Bunker Museum, which as the name implies, is a former military bunker. The bunker was built more than 40 years ago for use by the German secret police, and was designed to become a military command center if the local area was ever attacked.Today, tourists can experience life in the bunker, which includes donning the soldier’s uniforms before peeling potatoes and cooking sausages for dinner. But don’t expect a good night’s sleep here-the bunk beds are small and uncomfortable with thin mattresses and, naturally, you’re expected to make the bed yourself.

Those who run the hotel say the experience has proven extremely popular among travelers, and quite a few of those who visit are actually former East German residents themselves.

Two “Sea Serpents” Found Off Coast of California

Screenshot BBC

Marine biologists are having a heyday in California, where in the last week a rarely seen species of fish has washed ashore, not once, but twice.

In the last week, two carcasses of oarfish have washed ashore. The first one measured in at 18 feet long, and the second one, found by a group of third-graders on a school trip, was 14 feet long.

Sightings of the extremely large deep-sea creature, which can grow up to 50 feet, are rare, as oarfish tend to swim thousands of feet below the surface. While dead, the fish appear to be in good health.

“It looks good enough to eat – if you have a 13ft pan,” biologist Ruff Zetter told the BBC.So why have two of these rare fish washed up in the last week? In the wake of the sightings, many have cited an old Japanese myth that links oarfish sightings to earthquakes. But scientists aren’t so sure. What’s more likely is that these fish are poor swimmers, and a current simply could have carried them into rough waters.

For now, if you’re in the mood to see a sea serpent, your best odds are in Southern California as the Catalina Island Marine Institute will likely keep the fish skeleton for educational purposes.

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“Describe Your Mustache” And Other Strange Visa Questions

visa application form
Dr Aek Muldoon, Flickr

Anyone who has done a lot of travel understands that travel-related bureaucracy falls into its own special category of weird and unusual. The bizarre questions you get asked on customs forms or during the immigration process can leave you scratching your head, and now a new survey has revealed the truly wacko questions that are sometimes asked during the visa application process.

A poll by a visa submission website asked travelers to recount the most unusual questions they had ever been asked. Among the strangest, was a question on a Mexican visa form asking the applicant to “describe their beard/mustache.” The responses applicants could choose from included “scanty,” “bushy” or “clipped.” Meanwhile, a man traveling to a Middle Eastern country was asked “how many wives do you intend to bring?” during his application process.Some seemingly odd questions may have a rational basis for being on the application form — Australia, for instance, which takes quarantine very seriously, asks if travelers “have been to a farm in the past six weeks.” Others just boggle the mind. Several travelers were asked, “What side of the bed does your wife sleep on?” when applying for a U.S. visa, while those heading to China were asked about the reason for visiting, with “visit” being one of the available responses.

Those behind the survey say that while the questions may seem weird to us, it’s simply a sign of cultural differences, and travelers should be careful not to joke when filling out visa forms or answering immigration questions.

Tell us, what’s the strangest visa question you’ve ever been asked?

The Government is Back Up and Running, and So Are the National Parks

Grand Canyon National Park, Flickr

Everyone rejoice: now that the shutdown is finally over, government employees can get back to work and the rest of us can go out and explore any National Park that we feel like. No sneaking around with the risk of getting fined, you can now travel as you wish.

While some National Parks found ways to open back up during the shutdown, thanks to a handful of states that opted to pay the federal government to keep their parks functioning, today the 400 some National Parks will open back up as the furlough for the 20,000 park employees ends.Beyond National Parks, monuments and memorials managed by the National Park Service will also open back up.

But you know what all this means? After over two weeks of shutdown, you may expect lines and plenty of tourists in the places you have been wanting to visit. But hey, at least they’re open.