Sept. 17-23: CDC Lifts Zika Travel Advisory in North of Miami; Emirates to Charge to Pick Seat; Pilot Accidentally Sends Hijacking Distress Call; Marriott-Starwood Merger Finalized; & Flight Delayed by Iguanas

CDC Lifts Zika Travel Advisory in North of Miami

A little over month after a Zika travel advisory was issued for the trendy neighborhood of Wynwood, north of downtown Miami, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has lifted the advisory after no new cases have been reported for 45 days. However, the advisory that urged pregnant women to avoid the popular Miami Beach area remains in effect, after the area effected was tripled last Friday. While Florida Gov. Rick Scott is encouraging local residents to return to Wynwood to support local business, the CDC is still suggesting that pregnant women who are worried about potential exposure to delay travel to Miami-Dade County because mosquito season lasts through the fall.

Emirates to Charge to Pick Seat

The Middle East’s largest airline, and often named one of the world’s best airline, is going to start charging some customers who want to pick their seats in advance. Travelers purchasing tickets on Emirates after Oct. 3 in the two lowest fare categories, their Special and Saver fares, and want to select seats in advance will have to pony up anywhere from $15 for short-haul flights to $40 for long-haul destinations such as the U.S., Canada and Australia. However, seat selections will still be free if passengers check-in online two days before departure. This move brings Emirates in line with some other international carriers that also charge for advance seat selection such as British Airways and Lufthansa.

Pilot Accidentally Sends Hijacking Distress Call

This is an error you don’t hear about it very often. The pilot for a Saudi Arabian Airlines enroute from Jiddah to Manila accidentally made a hijacking distress call when it was 20 miles from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. When the control tower asked for a verification, the pilot verbally confirmed the message. According to aviation security chief Mao Aplasca, the pilot did not immediately clarify the error until the plane was parked. At that point however, the plane was already isolated on the tarmac and commando forces were surrounding the plane. The pilot then attempted to clear up the mistake, but airport manager Eddie Monreal said that “We can never play around with safety and security. We decided that we will not take that call hook, line and sinker saying that it was a mistake.” Passengers on the flight said nothing seemed out of the ordinary during the flight until they landed and family members started messaging them about reports of their flight being hijacked. One of the passengers, Princess Habiba Sarip-Paudac, a news anchor at a state-run TV network, said “Not even one crew explained. For two hours, they were saying, ‘Sorry ma’am, we don’t know anything, we don’t know what to say.’” The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines is investigating the incident and released a statement saying “Appropriate penalties and sanctions will be imposed on the erring pilot if the result is indeed a human error.”

Marriott-Starwood Merger Finalized

After months of false starts and obstacles, Marriott International has finally merged with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide today, creating the largest hotel company in the world. The final hurdle holding up the merger came from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, which approve the sale on Tuesday. These two brands combined will have 1.1 million rooms with over 30 brands in more than 110 countries. Starting today, Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest members will be able to link their accounts and begin earning and redeeming points for both brands.

Random News Item of the Week: Flight Delayed by Iguanas

Bad weather is the most common cause for delays. Sometimes it’s misbehaving passengers. Other times, maybe an escaped tarantula. However, a free roaming iguana is a new one, and that happened to a WestJet flight on its way from Toronto to Vancouver this past Saturday. The plane arrived in Toronto earlier in the day from Cuba, and when the passengers were going through customs, one of them was stopped because officials found an iguana in his checked bag. The man admitted to attempting to smuggle four iguanas into the country, but when he went to open his bag, there were only two. The operations crew concluded that the other two iguanas must have escaped onto the plane, which has already loaded its passengers bound for Vancouver. Rather than risk the chance of the creatures chewing through wiring, passengers were asked to deplane and the plane was fumigated. Eventually the passengers were moved to a different plane and went on their way. The plane in question has been grounded until it is cleared of iguanas. The question remains: how did the passenger get the iguanas past security and customs in the first place?

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