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‘Racist’ Southwest Airlines flight attendant threatens to kick Muslim woman off plane

A Muslim woman was threatened with being kicked off a flight after she asked to sit with her family, her husband claims.

Mehdi Hasan, a British journalist based in the US, said his wife was “in tears” after a Southwest Airlines flight attendant told her she’d be escorted off the plane for asking if another passenger would be willing to swap seats.

He claimed the incident, which occurred during a flight from Houston and Washington DC on 1 December, was racially motivated.

Southwest operates an open seat policy, whereby passengers can sit where they like on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Hey @SouthwestAir: not a good look for your flight attendant on SW5539 to DC last night to loudly tell a brown woman in a headscarf she’ll be ‘escorted off the plane’ for making people feel ‘uncomfortable’ – because she wanted to sit with her husband and kids,” Mr Hasan tweeted in a Twitter thread that quickly went viral.

“The flight attendant called ground staff onto the plane, complained about the Muslim woman – my wife! – to them, and escalated rather than de-escalated the situation – simply because my wife politely asked a guy if he’d give up his seat for our family (which he was fine with!).”

According to Mr Hasan, fellow passengers supported the family, with one asking aloud, “Why is [the flight attendant] escalating this?” and another telling them the crew member “treated you like a venomous snake”.

“Thanks for ruining the end of our Thanksgiving trip and leaving my wife in tears – because she wanted us all to sit together as a family while your flight attendant wanted to single her out and humiliate her,” he wrote, adding that he doesn’t plan on flying with the airline again.

In a later string of tweets, the journalist said he was even more angry having received a response from Southwest.

He claimed the airline had offered a private apology but refused to say sorry publicly and offered travel vouchers that didn’t cover the costs of their flights.

“I’m now more furious than I was on Sunday,” he wrote. “Then it was a rude and racist flight attendant. Now it’s an entire airline, an entire company, that seems unconcerned by, even maybe covering up, racism and harassment onboard. Shame on you.

“Southwest Airlines just haven’t taken what happened to my wife, or other POC in similar situations, seriously. No recognition of racism, or targeting; no pledge of anti-bias training, no public apology.”

An airline spokesperson told The Sun: “Once we learned about the customer’s social media message, we began to research the flight and gather information internally.

“We also reached out to the customer directly to discuss his family’s experience prior to departure.

“From our initial discussions, we understand that some passengers on Flight 5539 were involved in a disagreement over seat selection near the end of boarding. (Southwest does not assign seats; customers select their seats as they board the aircraft.)

“The flight crew requested a customer service supervisor come onboard to help address the situation and the conversation was resolved before the plane left the gate.

“The family was able to sit together and the flight arrived safely in Washington, D.C. on Sunday night. We remain in communication with the customer who sent the tweet and are working to address his concerns directly.”

The Independent has contacted Southwest Airlines and Mr Hasan for further comment.

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South Western Railway strike forces commuters to fly to work

As the longest UK rail strike this century enters its second week, some passengers are switching from train to plane in an effort to reach meetings in London.

Members of the RMT union walked out on 2 December in a long-running dispute over the role of guards.

They plan to continue the stoppage until the end of the year – apart from general election day, 12 December, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

South Western Railway says it is running slightly more than half its normal timetable – but on some less busy routes, trains are being replaced by buses.

For four stations on the West of England line – Pinhoe, Cranbrook, Whimple and Feniton – the earliest possible arrival at London Waterloo using the emergency timetable is just before 1pm.

The trip involves a bus to Honiton and two trains from there via Salisbury.

Normally there are two early-morning trains on the line, which start from Exeter and reach London Waterloo at 8.46am and 9.21am respectively.

While GWR runs trains from Exeter St David’s to London Paddington, the journey involves backtracking to the Devon city and facing high peak fares.

With Exeter airport convenient for affected towns and villages, some rail commuters are switching to the Flybe flights to London City airport in the east of the capital.

Robin Barker, an exhibitions director from Whimple, found it “cheaper and easier” to fly from Exeter airport than to take the GWR train.

He found an air fare for £87, which undercut the rail trip of £140.

“There’s a total lack of any thought in the emergency timetable,” he said.

The Waterloo line is also used by travellers from Exeter who can pay £80 for a peak-time single rather than £133 on GWR, for a journey that takes around one hour longer.

But the only train that runs through from Exeter to London Waterloo leaves at 5.10am – and runs without stopping through the four Devon stations.

Test bookings by The Independent found that, for bookings made at 8pm the night before, the 7am flight on Monday from Exeter (arriving at 8.10am) was selling at £209. 

For Tuesday, the fare is £103.

The standard one-way fare for all trains arriving before 11.39am is £133.

Booking for Tuesday, the lowest peak fare was an advance ticket at £125 – £22 more than the plane.

South Western Railway: Strike day one

The RMT union insists the strike is solely “in defence of passenger safety and accessibility,” and that members are striking in pursuit of an assurance that “the guard will have an integral and guaranteed role in the despatch process”.

The general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “Cutting the guard out of the despatch process reduces the second person on the train to little more than a passenger in the longer term which would give the company the option of axing them altogether at some point down the line.”

South Western Railway says: “We have promised that we will keep a guard on every train and that our guards will have a safety critical role. Both things the RMT has been asking for, so these strikes are unnecessary.

“We will do everything possible to get you where you need to go but ask that you leave more time for your journey and check before you travel for the latest information.”

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France strikes: 30,000 more passengers hit by second week of travel chaos

Travel to, from and within France will be hit by at least four more days of chaos as a result of the national strike that began last week.

The stoppage in protest against planned pension reforms has already led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights and thousands of trains – including 80 Eurostar services between London and France, Belgium and the Netherlands. More than 50,000 passengers had to change their travel plans.

Eurostar is warning that its services over the next four days, from 9 to 12 December, will be heavily disrupted, affecting around 30,000 more passengers.

On Monday and Tuesday, at least 14 trains between London and Paris have been cancelled, with some services to Brussels, Rotterdam and Amsterdam also axed.

At present eight London-Paris trains have been cancelled on Wednesday, and a further five on Thursday.

Passengers whose trains are cancelled can exchange or refund their tickets within 60 days.

A strike by air-traffic controllers led to hundreds of flights being cancelled.

British Airways has cancelled four French flights – round-trips from Heathrow to Paris and Toulouse – but it is not clear whether these are connected with the strikes.

The shutdown is still affecting rail and road transport in France. 

The Foreign Office is warning of “cancellations and severe delays to train, Metro, bus and tram services”. 

The latest FCO travel advice says: “International rail services such as those to the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Germany may also be affected.

“Industrial action at ports may cause delays and cancellations to some cross-Channel ferry services.”

The only disruption appears to have been on DFDS due to high winds on the Newhaven-Dieppe crossing and a technical failure that hit some overnight ferries between Dover and Calais.

The Foreign Office also warns: “Industrial action by hauliers on some major roads may also cause delays or blockages.”

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Luxurious travel information this week

Here’s a spherical-up of luxurious vacation tales that have caught the eye this 7 days. To make guaranteed you obtain these new weekly alerts in your website browser, be sure to click on on the pink bell icon in the bottom suitable hand corner of the site and simply click ‘subscribe’ (will work on desktop only – for other methods to subscribe, remember to click below). This will also inform you to any other posts on the weblog. Should you want, you can unsubscribe at any time, by clicking on the icon once more and picking ‘unsubscribe’.

Spanish hotel’s £11.9 million Xmas tree is the world’s most high priced

We’re on the clock. It is close to 18 sleeps until Christmas. Most likely you and your crew have it all sorted and your living area is kitted out in the regular festive wares. Or potentially you’re continue to in the tree acquisition levels and you are fiercely debating irrespective of whether this year’s tree will be freshly-minimize pine or a trusty faux. Either way, 1 tree you can consider out of the equation is the 1 with a multi-million pound price tag. A resort in Spain has just decked the halls with boughs of diamonds and donned their bougiest attire with an £11.9 million Christmas tree… [read more]

Tokyo will be shorter an estimated 14,000 hotel rooms each individual day of the 2020 Olympics

An estimated 10 million site visitors are predicted to descend on Tokyo following summer time for the 2020 Olympics. But the Japanese funds could not have area for them all. The city is facing a lodge room shortage of an approximated 14,000 rooms every day of the Olympics, according to the Nikkei Asian Critique, leaving the metropolis scrambling to obtain alternatives to residence millions of tourists… [read more]

Coral dredging: ‘It’s going to result in irreversible damage’

Campaigners in the Cayman Islands say they are fighting a “David and Goliath” fight from the world’s greatest cruise traces that want to redevelop the country’s port to accommodate huge ships. “I worry that it is going to lead to some irreversible injury that we can’t ever modify, get again or resolve in the future,” claims Michelle Lockwood, a single of those people opposed to the coral dredging that will be wanted to enlarge the port… [read more]

Why cruise traces hold reducing their ships in half

A couple months back, John Delaney, president of Seattle-based Windstar Cruises, stood on a scaffold at a historic shipyard in Palermo, Italy, and took a blowtorch to the Star Breeze, a 30-calendar year-previous, 212-passenger motor yacht. With sparks traveling, and shipyard workers and invited attendees cheering him on, Delaney made the final vertical minimize to chop Star Breeze in half. But he was barely destroying the modest ship—he was executing just the opposite… [read more]

These are the most generally stolen things from luxurious resorts

It’s a frequent tale — we slip a pen into our pocket or grab some more soaps for the road when leaving a hotel. Smaller items, specifically cleanliness solutions, seem to be harmless and replaceable. But would you be so daring as to consider a Tv set, a sauna bench or a grand piano? Wellness Heaven, a luxury and spa resort guide, surveyed 1,157 4- and 5-star inns positioned principally in Europe to figure out the products that have been regularly stolen… [read more]

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Avanti West Coast takeover: Everything you need to know

The West Coast main line linking London Euston with the West Midlands, northwest England, North Wales and Scotland is under new management.

After 22 years, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains company has been replaced on the line by a new operator called Avanti.

Why the change – and what will it mean for passengers?

It was the 20th century when Virgin Trains was first launched. What were the railways like at the time?

In the mid-1990s, the railways were fully nationalised but appeared to be in long-term decline, caused by the growth of car ownership and lack of investment in train travel.

While the East Coast main line between London King’s Cross, Yorkshire, Newcastle and Edinburgh had been electrified and provided with new trains, the West Coast route had some of the oldest rolling stock on the railways.

On a very good day you could get from Birmingham to London in 90 minutes and from Manchester in two-and-a-half hours, but the service was infrequent and unreliable. Longer-distance trains, from North Wales or Glasgow, seemed to take all day. 

Then the whole lot were privatised?

Yes. Despite widespread public hostility to rail privatisation, John Major’s government pressed ahead with selling off the nation’s railway infrastructure, rolling stock and the rights to run trains.

Most of the franchises were awarded to existing surface transport companies. But a music and airline entrepreneur, Richard Branson was initially awarded two franchises, both starting in 1997: Virgin Trains CrossCountry as well as West Coast. 

What happened to CrossCountry?

This franchise, connecting the South Coast with the Midlands, northern England and Scotland, was the Cinderella of the railways, with a lousy timetable and terrible trains.

For the first time ever, the terms “CrossCountry” and “new rolling stock” were used in the same sentence, and a proper “clock-face” timetable was established. But while services were dramatically improved, some of the plans for new links proved overambitious; they foundered because the infrastructure simply wasn’t up to scratch.

In 2007 the Department for Transport (DfT) handed the franchise to Arriva.

Meanwhile on the West Coast main line?

Initially it was the same old trains with a splash of red paint. The very first launch locomotive was called “Mission Impossible”, and early on it seemed the most appropriate name.

New arrival: Richard Branson at the launch of Virgin Trains in 1997 (Virgin Trains)

Virgin Trains delivered the promised new tilting train, the Pendolino. It is designed to travel at 140mph, but this has never happened due to the botched upgrade of the West Coast main line – which left the speed restricted to 125mph.

The service today, though, offers faster and more comfortable trains every 20 minutes from Manchester and Birmingham, and attracts three times more passengers as it did at the beginning of the franchise.

So why did Virgin Trains lose the franchise?

The franchise periodically comes up for renewal. Virgin had to resort to legal action in 2012 to retain the West Coast franchise after it was awarded by the Department for Transport to FirstGroup. 

Sir Richard Branson’s company showed that the DfT’s analysis was flawed, and retained the franchise. But FirstGroup have finally got their hands on the West Coast.

Virgin had bid to continue to run trains on the line with its partner Stagecoach and – ahead of High Speed 2 (HS2) – SNCF.

But the consortium refused to take what it saw as open-ended responsibility for part of the massive pensions deficit across the rail industry. Virgin Trains was happy to pay contributions for its current workforce, but to do more was a risk too far in these uncertain times.

The Department for Transport said the incumbent had “submitted non-compliant bids … and, in doing so, they are responsible for their own disqualification.”

Virgin said: “We’re extremely disappointed by this news.” Sir Richard Branson tweeted: “A huge thank you to all our wonderful people at VirginTrains – it’s down to all of your incredible work every day that Virgin Trains has been the UK’s longest running and top-rated rail franchise.” 

And David Horne, managing director of the East Coast train operator, LNER, wrote: “I had the privilege of being part of the Virgin Trains team back in 2003-4.

“You overcame every setback, achieved the Red Revolution and screwed average. What a journey!” 

End of the line: the first Virgin Pendolino (390001, left) was the last to arrive at London Euston on 7 December 2019 (Simon Calder)

Who or what is the new company?

A brand called “Avanti,” which is is Italian for “Forward” or “Let’s go!”. The name was chosen by the new franchise holder, a  consortium involving FirstGroup, the long-established transport conglomerate based in Aberdeen, and the Italian state railway operator, Trenitalia, based in Rome.

The trains remain the same,  but they have already been stripped of Virgin branding and will be repainted green and white, with the Avanti logo – an orange triangle, symbolising (says the company) “the three geographic points of the 400-mile long West Coast main line”. Which is odd, because the network has dozens of geographic points in the West Midlands, northwest England, North Wales and and southern Scotland, with much more than 400 miles of line.

What will passengers notice with Avanti?

The company says: “We’re on a mission to take the services you know and love and make them even better. That means increased comfort, better facilities and more capacity.” But in the short term, as the early French train fan Jean-Baptiste Carr said, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”—“the more things change, the more they stay the same.” 

As passengers on the 8.05am departures (from both Manchester and Wolverhampton) on 8 December found, they are paying the same fares for trains run to the same timetable by the same staff.

But there must be some changes further down the track?

The existing Pendolino trains will be refurbished with new seats and – Avanti promises – more reliable Wi-Fi. Voyager trains, the noisy diesels, will be replaced by 2022, and Avanti says there will be 263 more train services every week, including doubling the frequency between Liverpool and London, and running direct trains for the first time this century from Llandudno and Walsall to the capital.

The contract lasts until 2031, and Avanti was originally intended to cover the first five years of HS2 as well, but the high speed link will not now be ready by 2026 – and could be scrapped altogether.

I have an Advance ticket which I bought from Virgin Trains. Will it be valid on the new operator?

Yes. Indeed, you could buy tickets up to midnight on Saturday with Virgin Trains and they will continue to be accepted for another 24 weeks – or until the expiry date shown on the ticket.

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