Roller Girl busted for stealing 525 tickets from United Airlines

Mercedes Stafford, the president of the Cincinnati Roller Girls pleaded guilty yesterday to illegally obtaining more than 500 airline tickets.

Stafford, who is known as “Sadistic Sadie” in her roller team works as a ticketing agent for United Airlines at Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport and figured out a way to issue herself free tickets.

Her system involved printing tickets normally issued to passengers involved in canceled or delayed flights, but her greed eventually caught up with her when she was caught.

The tickets ended up costing United Airlines up to one million Dollars – and Stafford admitted she sold them for more than $50,000 to friends, family members and fellow Roller Girl team members.

If convicted, she could end up in jail for 20 years, but since she agreed to make restitution to the airline, she may get a more lenient sentence. If she does go to jail, she should do just fine – Sadistic Sadie is the current holder of the “most feared” award in her team.

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Kings Island’s Son of Beast roller coaster will remain closed this spring

When it opened 10 years ago, Son of Beast was the world’s tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster. Today, it has an infamous reputation for causing injury and requiring costly repairs.

Kings Island has poured a reported $30 million into Son of Beast, but the theme park’s General Manager Greg Scheid says the wooden coaster will not be operating when the park opens for the season on April 17.

In July 2006, 28 people were injured on Son of Beast when a car on the coaster hit a “bump” caused by a broken wooden timber. The accident led to a yearlong closure of the ride, and renovations that included lighter ride trains and the removal of the coaster’s famous inverted loop.

Then last June, Son of Beast was closed yet again, after a woman told the state she suffered a head injury while riding. A Cincinnati Enquirer report last summer showed that since the wooden coaster opened in 2000, it has had more injury investigations than any other ride in the state of Ohio.

“We have smoothed out the ride. Most people will say they enjoy the ride right now. I am not comfortable with the ride,” Scheid told the Business Courier of Cincinnati.

Scheid says the massive Son of Beast may reopen someday, but he was not specific about what improvements would need to be made before it rolls again.%Gallery-14657%

Be sure to check out Episode 5 of Travel Talk TV, which features a Santa Cruz beach adventure; explains why Scottish money is no good; shows how to cook brats the German way; and offers international dating tips!

Giving up your seat for a voucher? Only on one condition!

It’s always pretty tempting. You’re sitting in the gate area and hear the voice on the loudspeaker, offering travel vouchers and other perks if you’ll give up your seat because your flight is oversold. You know the drill … “if your travel plans are flexible.” Well, while en route to the Gadling meet-up in Chicago, I got this opportunity and decided to roll the dice. Along the way, I learned a bit that you may find useful when the gate agent is trying to seduce you into seat sacrifice.

Don’t give up your seat on one airline to accept a seat on another.

Right away, I felt uncomfortable. It’s natural to hesitate when you’re giving up a sure thing. Next, the gate agents were hunting for flights … never a good sign. I was on Delta, and the next Delta flight was fully booked … even though the original announcement promised volunteers a flight on the next Delta flight. The whole arrangement left me doubtful, but the thought of $800 worth of free travel (I was with my wife) pushed me forward. Gadling top dog Grant Martin was egging me on via e-mail, along with several other members of the team.

So, I pulled the trigger.

The Delta gate agent was able to get us booked on an American Airlines flight to Chicago leaving two hours later. So, we picked up our carry-ons and trudged across the Cincinnati airport to Terminal 2, where we’d check in and catch our new flight.

A shock awaited us at the American Airlines counter: our flight had been canceled. Fortunately, the airline was able to get us on a flight that was leaving earlier … though it had been delayed five hours (i.e., it was supposed to leave at 1 PM but was pushed to 6 PM, while our canceled flight was supposed to push back at 8 PM). Unlike everyone else on that flight, we got lucky. But, I wondered, what if we hadn’t been put on the earlier American flight? How screwed would we have been?

I called Delta’s media relations department while waiting for my flight on American and heard back rather quickly. The rep wasn’t able to point to a specific policy and rushed through an explanation that wasn’t terribly encouraging. The moral of the story seemed to be that Delta would welcome you back … because that’s the airline with which you started.

A media relations rep without some form of corporate-speak to quote chapter and verse is unnerving. These are the people responsible for making the airline look good less bad. If PR can’t give you a straight (if biased) answer, what are the chances of that gate agent being able to deliver?

“It’s easier when it’s a Delta-to-Delta” change, the rep explained. So, that tipped me off. If you can’t get a flight on the same airline, don’t chance it. I was told that there is more the airline can do for you if you’re on one of its flights. That’s true. They can bargain with first class upgrades, exit row seats and other perks. But, if they send you to another airline, you lose all that leverage.

Now, if you are moved to another airline and they cancel on you, you can always go back to the one with which you started, but keep in mind that the options available to them are more limited. If they’ve spent the day accommodating bumped passengers from oversold flights, there may not be as many slots available. You’ve lost time, which means you’ve lost flights.

And, since you’ve already given up your flight, there’s little you can do. You’re at the airline‘s mercy.

With my episode last Friday, I’m still a bit confused about the gate agent’s choice of flights. To have a plane canceled in the 15 minutes it took to walk from one terminal to another felt a bit fishy. I have no evidence of a decision from convenience, but I am certainly suspicious.

Of course, I did learn something, albeit the hard way: do not give up your seat if you can’t be booked on the same airline. You’re guaranteeing a world of headache.

Cincinnati crime-fighter becomes local attraction

Watch the streets of Cincinnati carefully: you may see a man clad in a mask and cape scouring the city in search of evil deeds and damsels in distress. Shadowhare, who (obviously) prefers to conceal his true identity has volunteered his services to the city’s citizens and civil servants … free of charge.

This is bigger than voting and jury duty combined.

This superhero is 21 years old – and clearly mature beyond his years. After all, who would take on such a daunting task? He leads a group called the “Allegiance of Heroes,” which includes Aclyptico in Pennsylvania, Wall Creeper in Colorado and Master Legend in Florida. “I’ve even teamed up with Mr. Extreme in California – San Diego – and we were trying to track down a rapist,” he says.

Shadowhare (and the Allegiance of Heroes) operates with “legal weapons,” such as handcuffs and pepper spray. When necessary, this crew conducts citizen’s arrests to bring justice to the community.

Here’s the shock: sometimes, Shadowhare and his fellow crime-fighters aren’t taken seriously by the folks in uniform. Imagine that! The Allegiance of Heroes, however, proceeds undeterred.

So, if a trip to Cincinnati is in your future, book your flights knowing that you have nothing to fear.

[Thanks, Dad]

Going to an amusement park? It’s probably cheaper than last year

Here’s a direct quote: “It would be crazy to spend full price to go to Disney right now,” said Mary Waring, founder of” I found this tidbit in a Practical Traveler article in the New York Times about cheap travel options for a Disney vacation and more.

Whether you’re looking for multiple night stays at a Disney resort or a one-day ticket to an amusement park, the deals have become cheaper than ever. Seven night stays can be had for the price of four. What I found interesting is how Disney’s price reduction is affecting hotels around Orlando. Three-star hotels are as cheap as $56 a night. For people who want to go to Walt Disney World for only one day, I’d check out this option. I’d rather stay at an outside the parks hotel in order to explore the area. There’s more to Orlando than resorts.

Other money saving deals include $50 off for swimming with the dolphins at Discovery Cove and child admission prices for adults at SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica if you book online at the Worlds of Discovery Web site a week before you go.

The article also pointed out that Six Flags amusement parks will be cheaper this summer as well. Personally, I perked up at the $43.99 for Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. This is the end of the season price from last year and cheaper by $1 than the ticket price in 2005. We usually go to Kings Island near Cincinnati because it’s generally cheaper and the water park is included. This may have us rethinking our amusement park strategy. Maybe we’ll do both.

There are also similar deals in California. Bottom line. Do research before you settle on the price.