This week’s round-up brings the latest airline and travel news – from U.S. airlines offering refunds to Zika affected regions, 2015 was airlines largest profit in decades, and U.S. Treasury eases more Cuban travel restrictions, to German tourist opens emergency exit door for fun, and Thai airline selling seats for supernatural dolls.

Major U.S. Airlines to Offer Refunds Over Zika

Earlier this week, following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) statement that the Zika virus “’is now spreading explosively’ in the Americas,” the three legacy airlines in the U.S. – American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines – are allowing passengers to either cancel or delay their trips to the affected areas. JetBlue Airways, who offers a large number of flights to the Caribbean and Latin America, is also allowing its passengers either cancel or postpone their flights without a change fee. If you have booked a ticket to one of the affected areas and are thinking of either cancelling or delaying your trip, check with your airline, as each airline may have different waivers in place. For example, United is waiving their change or cancellation fee to all areas mentioned in the Centers for Disease Control’s alert, while American’s policy is currently limited to pregnant women with a note from their doctor.

Airlines Post Largest Profit in Decades

The drop in fuel prices has helped U.S. airlines make 2015 the most profitable year since 1978. With fuel expenditure typically taking up a third of an airline’s revenue, the ever plunging cost of crude oil has allowed the airlines to post nearly $17.9 billion in profit in the first nine months of 2015. Of course, other factors that contribute to the profits include ancillary fees like checked luggage and carry-on bags that the airlines added to combat the rising oil prices back in 2008. It’s doubtful the fees will ever go away at this point, but hopefully the airlines will pass the profits down to their customers and employees.

U.S. Lifts More Cuban Travel Restrictions

This past Tuesday, the United States Treasury Department announced several more amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations Export Administration Regulations that took effect the following day. The changes include easing travel restrictions of the island nation, which now allows for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba for “temporary sojourn, professional meetings, public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic competitions and more.”

Passenger Opens Emergency Exit Door for Fun

It continues to surprise us that there are travelers out there who think opening the door of a plane in a non-emergency situation is a good idea. A German tourist, who was not named, on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai onboard Jet Airways decided it would be fun to open an emergency exit door after the plane was parked. When questioned by the cabin crew, the tourist supposedly answered “just for fun”. The passenger was barred from boarding his connecting Jet Airways flight to Delhi and instead was taken to the local police station. No passengers were harmed during this incident.

Random Story of the Week: Thai Airline Sells Seats for Dolls

The biggest craze sweeping the kingdom of Thailand right now is a Luk Thep, a child angel doll. These dolls are believed to possess a child’s spirit and bring good luck, and can cost as much $600 each. The Luk Thep mania started when local celebrities claimed that dressing them up and feeding them brought them professional success. The dolls are so popular, that Thai Smile Airways, a subsidiary of Thai Airways, began instructing its employees to sell seats for the doll to travelers who request it. Unfortunately for the doll lovers, Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) has taken notice of the news and they are discussing the proper course of action on how to handle passengers who carry the dolls, and whether airlines should begin offering booking options for the dolls.

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Kim has been hunting flight deals and writing travel articles for over 13 years. His articles have appeared in the Boston Herald, Chicago Daily Herald, and Frommer’s Budget Travel, among other publications. Amsterdam, Bangkok, Rome, and Sydney are some of his favorite destinations and he aspires to one day live in Italy. La dolce vita!

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