U.S. State Department issues warning about travel to Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Mexico is one of my favorite destinations in the world and a country I keep going back to.

I’ve written extensively about my love of Tulum and how it’s an amazing destination for remote workers. Just to the north of Tulum is Playa del Carmen, a popular destination for spring breakers, the LGBT community, and anyone who wants to worship the sun on an idyllic beach. I was there in Playa del Carmen in 2016 and really loved it.

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Sadly, after an explosive device was found on a tourist ferry in the area this week, the State Department has issued a warning to U.S. travelers and is prohibiting U.S. government employees from traveling to the region.

The U.S. government is suggesting the following actions if you are traveling to Playa del Carmen:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and exercise caution.
  • Purchase travel insurance that specifically covers you in Mexico and includes medical evacuation insurance.
  • Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate if you need assistance.

I’m hoping the unrest in Mexico eases soon and can’t say this would stop me from traveling there, but understand if tourism drops a bit as a result.

Woman alleges Spirit Airlines made her flush emotional support hamster down the toilet

According to a report in the Miami Herald, Belen Aldecosea, a 21-year-old student from Florida, flushed her emotional support hamster, Pebbles, down a toilet after being instructed to do so by a Spirit employee.

Aldecosea claims that she contacted Spirit before her flight and received permission to bring Pebbles on board. However, when she got to the airport, she was denied entry onto the flight with Pebbles, and a Spirit employee told Aldecosea that her two options were to either flush Pebbles or to let the animal free.

Aldecosea chose to flush Pebbles, saying she could not bear thinking of her hamster freezing to death or getting hit.

“She was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet,” Aldecosea said. “I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall.”

Norwegian breaks record with 5 hour, 13 minute flight from New York to London

Norwegian – a low-cast carrier which is gaining notoriety with its low pricing, great service, and interesting direct routes – set a record on Monday for the fastest subsonic commercial transatlantic flight ever.

The flight, which departing from New York’s JFK Airport and landed at London Gatwick, clocked in at 5 hours and 13 minutes, beating the previous record of 5 hours and 16 minutes.

This falls shorts of the fastest transatlantic flight ever, which occurred on February 7, 1996 on a Concorde, clocking in at 2 hours and 55 minutes.

Passenger wearing 10 layers of clothing to avoid luggage fee not allowed to board flight

Not all heroes wear capes, but some wear 10 layers of clothing.

Ryan Carney Williams, who goes by the name Ryan Hawaii, was set to fly from Iceland to London on British Airways, but was turned away from his flight after he put on all the clothes that wouldn’t fit in his checked luggage.

Mr. Hawaii took to social media and accused the airline of racial profiling. A spokesperson for British Airways responded, “The decision to deny boarding was absolutely not based on race. We do not tolerate threatening or abusive behaviour from any customer, and will always take the appropriate action.”

Mr. Hawaii’s luck got even worse when, the next day, he arrived at Iceland’s Keflavik airport to find out that he would not be allowed onto his newly booked replacement flight through EasyJet. Apparently, the captain of the EasyJet flight found out about the British Airways incident, and decided allowing Mr. Hawaii on-board would create a risk to other passengers.

Norwegian Air saved the day, allowing Mr. Hawaii to fly home (although he was not refunded for his EasyJet ticket).

NAACP issues travel advisory for American Airlines

Citing a “pattern of disturbing incidents,” the NAACP is warning African Americans not to fly on American Airlines.

“The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines,” the press release said. “Booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them to disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.”

The organization then gave an account of four incidents which “suggest[ ] racial bias,” according to NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. An account of these incidents can be found here.

For a full write-up on this developing story, check out the NY Daily News.

The U.S. travel ban: How taking away the ability to travel harms America

America’s freshly-implemented ban on people from 6 different countries traveling to the United Starts marks a new era and historic low for America, one where being from certain Muslim-majority nations alone is enough to take away the ability to travel freely to and from the 3rd largest country on the planet.

It matters that people from these countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) may no longer be able to visit the United States. And because travel rights are usually reciprocal, it matters that United States citizens will likely be unable to visit any of these countries.

Mark Twain is famously quoted as saying,

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of people and things cannot be acquired by vegetating on a little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Travel is, at its core, the exchange of people. Although places can’t move, people can, and when they do they bring their experiences, values, worldview, thoughts, and culture. Not only do people themselves grow and change from the experience of travel, but an increase in travelers can change places as well, often (though not always) for the better.

As a gay man, I purposely travel to countries that aren’t tolerant of the LGBTQIA+ community, such as Singapore, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Morocco. Why? Well, I don’t (always) travel to get laid and some of these places have amazing sights, I want to expand my horizons, and I also want people in these countries to know that LGBTQIA+ people are out there and we’re awesome. To the same end, by cutting off our ability to interact with citizens from other countries, we are creating a larger divide between our cultures.

I was especially sad to see Iran on the list of countries subject to the travel ban, as I would love to travel there one day. My Persian friends speak so highly of it, the landscape looks stunning, and I bet the food is amazing. I even follow a few people living there on Instagram, so I can get idea of places to visit. When I tell friends I’d like to visit, they often think I’m crazy; but, in my experience, people are the same almost anywhere you go, and most people you’ll run into actually care very little about what America or Americans do.

By treating citizens from entire nations as harmful, scary, and unworthy of entry into our country, we all lose. The exchange of people, ideas, and experiences is essential to our growth as humans – and while there are people who should be banned from entering America, it should be based on screenings that specifically show that they are a risk to the safety and security of our country.

I don’t believe the ban makes America any safer and, if made permanent, it will seriously hamper the ability for people from those countries and Americans to interact and find common ground with each other.

Why United Airlines made the right decision in forcibly removing a passenger 

The last 24 hours have been a nightmare for United Airlines. A passenger on an overbooked flight from Chicago to Louisville refused to give up his seat and, as shown in a video that has circulated the internet, was forcibly removed from the aircraft.

After giving much thought to what happened, I wanted to provide my perspective.

It is no secret to my readers that I am not a huge fan of United, despite being a Silver MileagePlus Premier member. I know it won’t be without controversy, but in this instance, I am taking United Airlines’ side.

Whenever you purchase a plane ticket, you agree to the airline’s Contract of Carriage, which explicitly states that you may not be entitled to the seat that you purchased. It falls on customers to read these documents in detail, and it is clear that the passenger who was removed was in violation of these terms. The second he was asked to give up his seat, he should have.

Additionally, according to United, the passenger became belligerent when asked to follow the rules which he had already agreed to. Although there is no video of the passenger acting belligerently, I am not surprised that he did – I am sure that anyone mandated to give up their seat who failed to read the Contract of Carriage before their flight would pitch a fit.

In a post-9/11 world, when a passenger becomes belligerent, an airline has no choice but to remove them. He could have posed a serious safety risk to both the staff and its passengers, and the airline may have thwarted something even more major from happening on the flight.

A lot of people are claiming the security officers who removed the passenger acted inappropriately, calling the force excessive. In fact, one of the officers has already been suspended. On my end, I believe that aviation security officers are almost always in the right with whatever actions they take to ensure the safety of the public. They are uniformly fine people who take these jobs to do good, and I believe most alleged misconduct issues are caused by people themselves failing to properly and adequately follow directions.

Also, I believe the passenger, who claimed to be a doctor, grossly exaggerated his injuries. Although there is video of him bleeding, the fall he took was not enough to cause this type of injury. I am not saying he necessarily faked a bloody nose and face, but I’ve watched enough pro wrestling to know that these things can be manufactured.

If you’re still reading this, happy belated April Fools!