Gay Couple Sues United Continental Over Sex Toy Incident

On Friday, Christopher Bridgeman and Martin Borger, a gay couple from Norfolk, Virginia, filed a lawsuit against United Continental for allegedly removing a dildo from their luggage, covering it in a foul substance and taping it to the outside of their bag. They are seeking compensation for the invasion of privacy, emotional distress and negligence.

Reportedly, the incident occurred on May 21, 2011, when the couple was returning from a trip to Costa Rica. They had a layover at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, and re-checked their bags without any problems; however, once they arrived in Norfolk they discovered a dildo had been taken from their luggage, slathered in a “greasy foul-smelling substance” and “taped prominently” to the outside of their bag.

When other passengers saw what had happened they began laughing, which caused the men severe emotional trauma.

“I absolutely, fervently believe that this was intentional,” Bridgeman, 34, told NBC News. “It was very sick and it was very wrong and it was just maliciously taped to the top and targeted because we’re gay.”

While Bridgeman and Borger had reported the incident to the airline, the response was unsatisfactory. Airline spokeswoman Christen David explained United Continental had offered the men a gesture of goodwill, which they declined.

The couple’s lawyer, Harry Scarborough, has declined discussing how much money they are seeking, stating they want retribution for attorney fees, mental anguish damages and other compensation.

[Image via JBabinski380]

Inside United’s First 787 Dreamliner At Boeing HQ

We knew it was coming, but now that we’ve had a chance to step on board United Airlines’ latest jetliner in person, we’ll surely be counting the days until we can ease into one of those airborne recliners as the carrier’s 787 takes to the skies. Just days after getting its first coat of paint (and that unique nose-to-tail swoop), United opened up its Dreamliner for journalists, select customers and a handful of staffers to take a first look at the 787’s interior, which includes 36 flat-bed BusinessFirst seats in a 2-2-2 configuration, 72 Economy Plus seats with up to 36 inches of pitch and 111 Economy seats with a fairly standard 32 inches of pitch.

You could have garnered that from glancing at a seat map. What’s not so clear is just how magnificent this aircraft is to ride, or, in the case of our grounded demo at Boeing’s Everett factory today, how it looks from the ground. This isn’t our first trip down the aisles of a 787, having flown on ANA’s Dreamliner with Engadget in Japan last year. In comparison to the 777, however, where we’ve spent weeks of time in flight, it’s quite exciting to see how the in-flight experience is improving, even when compared to the pleasant ride on the carrier’s previous-generation flagship.

%Gallery-161659%United will be operating the Dreamliner on new and existing routes, and while we don’t know exactly where the 787 will fly first, service is slated begin later this year. The first confirmed route will launch on March 31st between Denver and Tokyo, growing direct service between the Japanese hub and the U.S. to 10 cities (including Honolulu and Guam). Passengers on board those flights will certainly appreciate the oversized dimmable windows and giant overhead bins, along with all-LED lighting, which sadly are limited to basic color configurations, rather than the ANA we’ve seen during boarding on ANA.

The 787 is more than a foot narrower than the 777, but United maintained the same seating configuration as its Continental acquisitions, which you might assume makes the aircraft seem a bit cramped. The higher ceilings and open feel made the difference almost unnoticeable, however, and the Continental-era BusinessFirst seats on board are still far superior to United’s own triple-7 layout, where four center seats mean you could end up paying for a bed yet still have a middle seat. Here, just like on those select triple-7s (mostly used on flights beginning in Houston or Newark), biz seats offer much more privacy, with more personal space and substantial dividers.


In the Y-cabin, seats seemed cushier than what we’ve used on United’s existing fleet, and feature the same in-flight entertainment system installed on some of the carrier’s current aircraft. Like BusinessFirst, these seats also feature larger dimmable windows and overhead bins which reportedly offer 30 percent more capacity than those on United’s 777. Rows 16 and 27 have substantially more legroom than other Economy Plus seats. In fact, there’s so much space between the window-side seats in row 27 that you could plop down a sleeping bag and camp out on the floor if the FAA permitted it.

Surprisingly, the most spacious seats on the plane aren’t in this row or even in the business cabin, but instead are located up a flight of stairs in a hidden second level. Two sets of crew quarters are located at the far forward and far aft positions, behind doors marked “Crew Only.” Through those doors and up a small flight of stairs you’ll find two full-size beds in the front of the Dreamliner and six in the rear. There’s not much room to do much other than sleep, but thick, full-length mattresses will surely enable pilots and flight attendants to make good use of scheduled rest periods.

We felt quite comfy during our visit to United’s 787, even on the main level, and while we couldn’t experience the boosted humidity, increased cabin pressure, noise suppression and computer-assisted smooth performance, it’s clear that the Dreamliner will be very popular among United passengers. There’s a few months to go until you can take a flight of your own, but we have plenty of photos to tide you over for now. Thumb through the galleries for a closer look, then scroll down below for a hands-on video from Engadget.

Oscars take flight on United from O’Hare Airport

O’Hare Airport had a couple of extra visitors this morning in terminal B. Joining the rest of the passengers heading to Los Angeles on the United flight dubbed “Oscar 1” was none other than Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His entourage consisted of several dozen short, gold men: this year’s Academy Awards.

Mr. Sherak was personally escorting the awards from their birthplace at the R.S. Owens Foundry to the ceremony. Passers-by were stopped in their tracks when they saw the famous statue being passed from person to person, and even making an appearance on a nearby concession stand counter. Sherak cleared things up by taking to the intercom himself, inviting anyone who wanted to take their own photo with Oscar.

Airport staff and passengers alike had their fun with the award. Guests pretended to write acceptance speeches, thanked their parents, and a couple brave souls lifted the 8.5-pound award single-handedly to the sky. When asked questions about what metals the statue was made of, Sherak pulled out a cheat sheet from his pocket for help: gold on the outside, then Britannia (tin, antimony, and copper) on the inside.

The crew of the flight also got to spend a few minutes with Oscar, and he even took a trip to the cockpit, where Captain Mel Mason Jr. said he was the most prestigious non-human passenger he’d ever flown. The other 42 trophies were also on board, stashed securely in the plane’s cargo. But preparing for the 4 1/2 hour flight, Sherak still had his Oscar in his lap, available for the passengers. Sherak was uncertain about their arrival time: “We’ll see how the speeches go. It could be a seven hour flight.”


6 last minute travel gift ideas for the frequent flier

There was once a time when if you hadn’t finished your Christmas shopping by now, you’d be, well, pretty much screwed. But now, thanks to the ole Internet, you can order up virtual gifts and deliver them by email or print-out card with just a few clicks. And with all the free wifi specials in airports and airlines (thanks Delta, Skype, and Nintendo) you can even take care of your shopping while flying home! Here, a selection of great last minute travel gift ideas.

Travel experiences
For some, diamonds are forever. I personally prefer experiences: catching a show at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, swimming with dolphins in Hawaii, taking a helicopter ride over Manhattan. Gift these unforgettable travel experiences and more with gift vouchers from online travel activity booking companies like Viator and Isango.

Priority Pass membership
Airport hoppers will appreciate access to more than 600 VIP airport lounges worldwide through a membership with Priority Pass. A standard annual membership starts at $99 with a $27 per visit additional fee.Virtual travel books
With the proliferation of the iPad, Kindle and other e-readers, big bulky guidebooks are going the way of the Walkman. Give your favorite traveler a virtual travel book, or literature from their next destination, through the Apple iBookstore or Kindle Store.

Frequent flyer miles
The travel hacker in your life will flip over the gift of frequent flier miles. You can transfer miles that you have already accumulated, or directly purchase miles as a gift. Fees for these services vary from airline to airline. At United, it costs $15 per 1,000 miles to transfer and $35 per 1,000 miles to give.

Custom travel playlists
The perfect music mix can be an excellent companion for the solo traveler. iTunes makes it easy to create and gift a custom travel playlist — Gainsbourg for a jaunt to Paris, or maybe some electrotango for a trip to Argentina. Just create a playlist in iTunes, populate it with songs, then select the “Store” menu and the “Share Playlist” option. When prompted, indicate that you want to gift your playlist, then choose how you want your gift to be received.

Gifts for others
What do you get for the guy/gal who has everything? Something for someone else. Chances are, the traveler on your list has witnessed poverty and hardship in the places they’ve visited. Kiva gift cards provide a way to sponsor micro-entrepreneurship projects in developing countries, while a donation to charity: water provides clean drinking water in poor rural areas. Both sites offer printable gift cards.

United Airlines to order A380 jumbo jet?

Things are going pretty well for United this year. Full approval for their merger with Continental Airlines went through, they became the first domestic carrier to adopt bio fuel and one of their biggest competitors has gone bankrupt. Their media and public relations departments should get the rest of the year off. In fact, they should buy us dinner.

In addition to all of that good news, rumors around the community are that the airline is eyeballing a new Airbus A380, the largest passenger aircraft on the market and a behemoth that’s usually only reserved for the major international carriers. Though United flies plenty of routes, the majority of their passengers fly short haul in the United States, and as such a heavy, fuel-guzzling aircraft is hardly worth the investment.

With growing focus in the Asian Pacific region, however, the airline may start investing in larger aircraft to serve that market. While they haven’t made any official announcement to lay public, Aviation Week reports that the COO of airbus claims “that United President and CEO Jeffery Smisek has changed his previously held view that the widebody was inappropriate for U.S. operators and now saw possibilities for the A380 in the new United fleet.”

Perhaps that means that the American carriers are finally willing to step into the long haul game. We sure hope so.