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]

United Continental to expand Economy Plus seating to Continental aircraft

Compared to some other carriers, inflight services on United Airways have always been a little lacking. They don’t have a neat touch-screen entertainment system, limited inflight WiFi and no live TV or radio. Thankfully, they do have two perks you don’t find on any of the other domestic carriers – increased legroom in part of the cabin and the ability to listen in on cockpit communications.

As part of their merger with Continental, the new airline plans to introduce their Economy Plus seating to Continental aircraft.

Economy Plus is by no means a replacement for a business class cabin, but the 5 extra inches of leg room are usually quite welcome. What was once a perk reserved for their frequent fliers, has quickly become a new way for the airline to make money – charging up to $425 a year for unlimited access to the extra legroom. Individual flight upgrades to Economy Plus start at just $9 (for short flights).

Still, the airline has to be applauded for committing to this decent perk. The full press release is after the jump.


Multi-year conversion brings Economy Plus to the new United

CHICAGO, Feb. 17, 2011–United Continental Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: UAL) today announced that it will retain United’s popular Economy Plus® seating on United flights and expand the option to Continental aircraft beginning in 2012, providing more opportunities for customers to enjoy additional legroom and comfort.

“Our customers value Economy Plus and the additional personal space that it provides,” said Jim Compton, chief revenue officer of United Continental Holdings. “Customers who sit in Economy Plus are significantly more satisfied with their travel experience, as are travelers who choose other options that enable them to tailor their travel to their liking.”

The decision to maintain and expand Economy Plus across the combined fleet marks a significant milestone in the product integration of United and Continental. It also demonstrates the company’s commitment to provide innovative options to customers that enable them to customize their travel experience with superior products they value.

Today, United offers Economy Plus on all 359 mainline aircraft and more than 150 larger regional jets operated by United Express® carriers. When the multi-year conversion process is complete, the company plans to offer Economy Plus on more than 700 mainline aircraft, including all Continental mainline aircraft, as well as larger regional aircraft. When fully deployed, the new United’s fleet will include more than 40,000 Economy Plus seats, providing more than 122,000 Economy Plus seats each day, the largest amount of extra legroom economy seating available to customers of any airline in the world.

United introduced Economy Plus in 1999, offering up to five inches of additional legroom to customers seated in the forward section of United Economy®. Customers with elite status in United’s Mileage Plus and Continental’s OnePass frequent-flyer programs may confirm seat assignments in Economy Plus, when available. Customers may also purchase seat assignments in Economy Plus when making reservations via and, through a reservation agent, or during the check-in process at home or at the airport.

Continental currently offers extra legroom seats and will continue to offer that option to travelers until those aircraft are reconfigured with Economy Plus seating. OnePass and Mileage Plus elite members may confirm extra legroom seats at no charge, and other customers may purchase seat assignments for extra legroom seats.
The expansion of Economy Plus reflects United’s focus on its product and customers. The airline continues to reconfigure United and Continental aircraft with new lie-flat seats in first and business class – with the new lie-flat product already on 112 aircraft in the combined fleet, more than any other U.S.-based carrier. In addition, more than 160 Continental aircraft feature DIRECTV®.

United Continental and US Airways boost revenue – only one of them actually profits

The aviation world is a funny beast – one in which losing money has come to be expected, and losses are all part of “doing business”. The past couple of years have been exceptionally tough for the US legacy carriers – but big changes in how they do business seem to be paying off.

US Airways earned $28 million on revenue of $2.91 billion – up nearly 11%. United Continental issued its first numbers after finalizing the merger of United Airlines and Continental Airways, and impressed analysts with a 15% increase in revenue – $8.43 billion. Of that amount, no profit was left, and the airline closed the quarter with a $325 million loss – but since this was less than analysts had expected, losing “just” $325 million was considered good news.

The cause of these jumps in revenue can be traced back to a number of changes – the first of course pointing to the most annoying one – fees. US Airways generated $388 million in baggage fees alone in the third quarter of 2010. United Continental took home $497 million in the same period. And yes – this is just on baggage fees in one quarter!

Another important change is one that helped reduce costs very quickly – flying less. Airlines removed non-profitable routes from their networks, and reduced flights on others. The end result is something every airline executive likes to see – full planes, higher fares and lots of people paying luggage fees.

In removing routes, airlines also paid close attention to the type of planes being used – less efficient planes were taken out of service and replace by more efficient models. By doing this, airlines managed to use 11.9% less fuel compared to the same period in 2009.

Bottom line – things are looking up for the airlines and we all need to realize that fares will go up, fees will go up and flying will be just as uncomfortable as ever.

[Photo: Getty Images]

Airline profits may mean more elbow room for a little while

The airline industry wants to thank you. Last year, it was mired in despair. The post-financial crisis recession left the carriers beleaguered and desperate for a turn of fortune. Corporate and leisure travel had fallen precipitously, and doubling down on extra fees, though prudent for profits, alienated both those considering a flight and the passengers with little choice but to hit the road. The brutality of 2009 was evident, and it seemed as though all there was for 2010 was the hope for something better.

Well, hope paid off.

Three quarters into this year, money is again beginning to flow, as a result of (finally) climbing fares, additional fees and an increase in passenger traffic. United Continental, Southwest and JetBlue have reported strong profits for the third quarter using a variety of tactics, but an increase in sales and higher prices appear to be the universal driver. And, this may translate to a bit more elbow room for you.
According to the Associated Press, airlines are beginning to bring back some of the routes they cut last year, as indicated by decisions at Delta and American Airlines to hire more flight attendants. The challenge, however, will be to increase capacity (and thus headcount) without imperiling this year’ hard-won profits.

The business of satisfying pent-up demand isn’t easy for the airline sector. After all, capacity can’t be added one seat at a time. Restoring a route to handle more passengers comes with it the obligation to fill the plane (to the extent possible) each time, in accordance with revenue per available seat mile (RASM) targets.

Nonetheless, the carriers seem ready to rise to the challenge. JetBlue is amping up fourth quarter capacity by up to 10 percent, with Delta looking at an increase of 5 percent to 10 percent. This follows even faster growth in September, according to the Associated Press:

Still, most of the airlines saw traffic rise even faster than capacity in September suggesting they have enough business to support the additional flights. The only exception was Delta, which added capacity slightly faster than traffic rose.

The moves come in anticipation of a strong 2011, according to Ray Neidl, an analyst for Maxim Group. He tells the associated press that the growth in capacity “is a little more long-term,” adding that “[d]espite the lackluster economy, it’s going to be a big year for airlines, especially as consolidation kicks in.”

So, what does this mean for the flying public?

Well, you may not have to occupy that middle seat for a little while, and the odds that someone else will be in it may be improving. The increase in capacity necessarily precedes an increase in sufficient demand to make it profitable, so enjoy it while you can! If the airlines can’t fill those new seats, a return to austerity could send you back to sharing an armrest.

[photo by Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr]