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77 Big Things That Happened in Travel in 2017

Dec. 14, 2017
17 min read
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It's the most wonderful time of the year: when we recap on all the absurd, over-the-top things that happened in travel. From airline scandals of epic proportions to travel bans to geopolitical circumstances that changed the industry, here are TPG's most memorable news events of 2017 — so far.


Jan. 4: Southwest mistakenly sends out companion-pass confirmations to a number of Rapid Rewards members.

Jan. 4: Because of a weight-balance issue, an unaccompanied minor is kicked off an United express flight from Albany (ALB) to Washington Dulles (IAD).

Jan. 5: Three passengers are detained in Beijing for using their cellphones on a Xiamen Air flight.

Jan. 9: Following the Alaska Airlines and Virgin America merger, customers can now transfer Virgin America Elevate points to Alaska's Mileage Plan.

Jan. 28: Thousands of protesters stage a peaceful demonstration at JFK and other airports across the US in response to President Trump's executive order limiting immigration from Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. A federal judge promptly issues an emergency stay requested by the ACLU, which allows individuals who have landed in the US (and who possess a valid visa) to remain in the country.

JOHN F KENNEDY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2017/01/28: For over 8 hours thousands flooded into Terminal 4 at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, at times shutting down the hub while protesting Donald Trump's executive order banning Muslims from certain countries from travelling to the U.S. Around 8 p.m. that evening, the federal court for the Eastern District of New York issued an emergency stay halting the ban. (Photo by Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images


Feb. 11: A United pilot is removed from her flight after showing up for duty wearing street clothes and flip-flops and making really strange announcements — about her impending divorce, for instance — over the plane's PA system.

Feb. 12: Hamburg Airport halts flights after nine passengers report symptoms of nausea.

Feb. 12: Disney increases the ticket prices at all of its US parks.

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - JUNE 24: In this handout photo provided by Disney Parks, singer Ariana Grande gives Mickey Mouse a kiss in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom June 24, 2014 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Grande is celebrating her 21st birthday with dozens of family and friends at Walt Disney World. (Photo by Chloe Rice/Disney Parks via Getty Images)
Photo by Chloe Rice/Disney Parks via Getty Images.


March 6: President Trump signs a revised executive order suspending the US refugee program for 120 days and limiting immigration from six countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for the next 90 days.

March 15: A passenger's headphones explode while she's sleeping on an Air China flight from Beijing (PEK) to Melbourne (MEL); the issue turned out to be battery-related.

March 20: According to a leaked TSA email the US will ban electronics in airplane cabins on flights headed to the US from 10 airports in eight countries, including Cairo (CAI); Amman, Jordan (AMM); Kuwait City (KWI); Casablanca, Morocco (CMN); Doha, Qatar (DOH); Riyadh (RUH) and Jeddah (JED), Saudi Arabia; Istanbul (IST); and Abu Dhabi (AUH) and Dubai (DXB), UAE.

March 21: Electronic devices larger than a cellphone or smartphone are officially banned from cabins and carry-on luggage on direct flights from the cities above to the US.

March 21: The British government bans in-cabin electronics on some flights bound for the United Kingdom.

March 31: The TSA's monthly list of things passengers tried to sneak through security includes, for this month, a handgun, grenades and a pocketknife.

Kuwaiti social media activist Thamer al-Dakheel Bourashed puts his laptop inside his suitcase at Kuwait International Airport in Kuwait City before boarding a flight to the United States on March 23, 2017.Travellers across the Middle East have expressed frustration at a ban on large electronic devices for flights to the United States and Britain that has sparked confusion and speculation. From March 25, passengers on flights to the United States and Britain from major hubs in Turkey and the Arab world will have to check in any device larger than a smartphone, including laptops and tablets. / AFP PHOTO / Yasser Al-Zayyat (Photo credit should read YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images.


April 10: United Airlines comes under fire after a video of law enforcement forcibly removing a paying passenger from a flight (SDF to ORD) surfaces in what comes to be known as Bumpgate.

April 12: In the first interview since the hostile "bumping incident," United CEO Oscar Munoz says, "This can never, will never happen again on a United Airlines flight. That’s my premise and that’s my promise." Then he gives refunds to all the passengers from Flight 3411.

April 13: United Airlines lands in the headlines again — this time, after a scorpion falls from an overhead compartment and stings a passenger.

April 16: The mayor of Paris bans cars along a two-mile stretch of the Seine river in an effort to combat air pollution and create a more pedestrian-friendly city.

April 22: American Airlines makes the news after a video surfaces of an airline employee arguing with a passenger after allegedly nearly hitting another passenger’s baby with a stroller.

April 23: A family is kicked off a Delta flight (OGG to LAX) for not giving up their son's seat to another passenger.

April 28: A man is kicked off a Delta flight for using the restroom while his delayed flight from Milwaukee (MKE) from Atlanta (ATL) was taxiing to the runway.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 01: United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz speaks during the 107th Annual San Francisco Travel luncheon on June 1, 2017 in San Francisco, California. Oscar Munoz delivered remarks at the 107th San Francisco Travel lunch that was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz speaks during the San Francisco Travel luncheon on June 1, 2017.  Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.


May 3: Passengers are kicked off a JetBlue flight from New York (JFK) to Las Vegas (LAS) after fighting with the cabin crew about where to store a birthday cake. In a statement, JetBlue explains: "All customers are welcome to bring onboard one carry-on and one personal item, including cakes, within the size limits."

May 22: Following a suicide bombing in Manchester, the UK raises its threat level to critical, and the US Department of State warns Americans to use caution when traveling to Europe this summer.

May 24: Uber confirms that it’s been routinely overcharging riders for rides with up-front pricing.

May 25: TSA PreCheck expands to seven new airlines, bringing the total number of participating carriers to 37.

May 30: The Chinese government demands that Emirates Airline remove Taiwanese flags from crewmembers' uniforms to comply with the One China policy, which maintains that Taiwan is a rogue province of China that will eventually be reunited with mainland China in the future. The next day, Emirates releases a public statement claiming that the email requesting crew members to remove their pins was sent in error and that wearing a flag pin is not required.

The Uber logo is seen reflected in a pair of sunglasses on November 2, 2017. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images.


June 12: Rome bans frolicking, eating and drinking around the city’s famous fountains at night.

June 16: The US announces increased restrictions on travel to Cuba.

June 22: A TSA agent is arrested for allegedly stealing cash from a passenger’s bag.

June 21: A family of five is ejected from a JetBlue flight after one of the children kicks the seat in front of them.

Touristes et romains devant la fontaine de Trevi ‡ Rome lors de la canicule le 12 juillet 1982, Italie. (Photo by Gianni GIANSANTI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Photo by Gianni Giansanti /Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.


July 5: The electronics ban no longer applies to US-bound flights on Emirates and Turkish Airlines.

July 5: Uber announces suspension of services in Finland as of August 15; the government requires all taxi drivers to hold a permit to operate a taxi.

July 10: Rome’s mayor institutes a summer-long ban on drinking at night.

July 17: Milan bans glass bottles and selfie sticks in the city's nightlife hub.

July 19: At least 1,400 British Airways cabin crew go on strike amid a dispute over pay and other issues.

July 19: The electronics cabin ban is lifted for passengers flying from the Middle East.

July 26: The TSA issues new security regulations mandating that passengers in US airports must remove all electronic devices larger than cellphones from their carry-on bags when going through security.

July 28: A North Korean missile lands 93 miles northwest of Okushiri Island, right in the path of an Air France flight that had flown past the exact location a few minutes earlier.

DENVER, CO - APRIL 12: TSA security lines in the main terminal are crowded with spring break travelers on April 12, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. Located 25 miles from downtown, Denver International Airport, a United Airlines hub, has become one the largest airport in the United States. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
TSA security lines at Denver International Airport (DEN). Photo by George Rose/Getty Images.


Aug. 1: A 17-year-old traveling from Panama City (PTY) to San Francisco (SFO) opens the emergency-exit door on arrival and jumps from the plane, a Boeing 737, onto the tarmac below. He is treated at a hospital and then taken into police custody.

Aug. 3: British Airways cabin crew extend a four-week strike for another two weeks in an effort to get increased pay.

Aug. 9: Qatar allows visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries with immediate effect, scrapping visa requirements.

Aug. 10: A cruise ship sailing from Sydney to Dubai goes dark and becomes a “ghost ship” for 10 nights in order to avoid a potential pirate attack.

Aug. 15: Air Berlin declares bankruptcy.

Aug. 16: A father and daughter are kicked off a Frontier Airlines flight from Orlando (MCO) to St. Louis (STL) after a flight attendant overhears their “inappropriate” conversation, which included derogatory language about the boarding process and cabin crew.

Aug. 20: Citi adds Turkish Airlines as a ThankYou Rewards transfer partner, making it possible for cardholders to use points on Turkish Airlines (and Star Alliance) flights.

Aug. 21: Passengers on flights along the path of the solar eclipse in the US get a close view of the phenomenon.

Aug. 23: Because of increased violence and drug-cartel activity in Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo, the US issues a travel warning for these parts of Mexico.

Aug. 25: Hurricane Harvey, the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in the US since 2004, hits Houston hard. Both of Houston’s major airports close, along with six others in the area. American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit offer free travel in and out of Texas.

Aug 28: France launches Women Drive, the country’s first female-only taxi service.

Aug. 30: Two major US passport-issuing offices (Miami and Texas) close down because of flooding in Texas, delaying expedited US passport requests.

A total solar eclipse occurs on August 21, 2017, at Mary's River Covered Bridge, in Chester, IL, USA. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Photo by Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty Images.


Sept. 5: Hurricane Irma threatens the Caribbean, Bahamas and Florida, and airlines issue waivers.

Sept. 18: Bank of America launches its Premium Rewards credit card, which TPG calls "a stress-free travel card, since points are worth 1 cent apiece no matter what you redeem them for."

Sept. 19: Mexico City is hit by a major earthquake.

Sept. 24: President Trump issues a new proclamation extending immigration restrictions indefinitely, and applying to a revised set of eight countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

Sept. 26: A woman is forcefully removed from a Southwest flight from Baltimore (BWI) to Los Angeles (LAX) after refusing to deplane; she had raised a concern about having a life-threatening allergic reaction to the two dogs on board.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - SEPTEMBER 10: Trees bend in the tropical storm wind along North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard as Hurricane Irma hits the southern part of the state September 10, 2017 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The powerful hurricane made landfall in the United States in the Florida Keys at 9:10 a.m. after raking across the north coast of Cuba. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Hurricane Irma hits Fort Lauderdale. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.


Oct. 1: A mass shooting in Las Vegas leaves more than 50 people dead and at least 200 others wounded; it also temporarily closes Las Vegas McCarran Airport.

Oct. 9: Multiple fires tear across several California counties. Hundreds of homes and businesses are destroyed, forcing thousands of people to evacuate. The area is continuing to rebuild.

Oct. 15: Stories emerge that two China Eastern flights arriving in Kunming, China (KMG), were infested with more than 100 German cockroaches.

Oct. 17: The latest version of the Trump administration’s travel ban is blocked by a federal judge in Hawaii, who says it violates the Constitution.

Oct. 18: Just before the latest Trump travel ban is set to take effect, a federal judge in Maryland grants an injunction blocking it, saying that it clearly targets Muslims.

Oct. 18: An Air Berlin pilot is suspended after buzzing an air-traffic control tower to mark the airline's final trans-Atlantic flight.

Oct. 24: Stricter passenger-screening requirements are announced for US-bound flights, affecting 325,000 airline passengers on about 2,000 commercial flights arriving daily to the US.

Oct. 25: The NAACP warns African-American passengers against travel on American Airlines based on a pattern of racial discrimination and a number of “disturbing incidents.”

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 4: Las Vegas resident Elisabeth Apcar (R) hugs a woman who was working at the concert venue on Sunday night (she wished to remain anonymous), at a makeshift memorial at the northern end of the Las Vegas Strip, October 4, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On October 1, Stephen Paddock killed at least 58 people and injured more than 450 after he opened fire on a large crowd at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. The massacre is one of the deadliest mass shooting events in U.S. history. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Las Vegas. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.


Nov. 5: Passengers aboard Aeromexico Flight 231 from Torreon to Mexico City are disturbed by a five-foot-long viper — like the movie Snakes on a Plane, but in real life.

Nov. 8: The Trump administration imposes new travel and commercial restrictions on Cuba, making it much harder for American citizens to visit and do business in Cuba starting Nov. 14.

Nov. 7: United makes its final 747 flight, from San Francisco (SFO) to Honolulu (HNL). Passengers and the crew dress the part and party like it's Hawaii in the 1970s.

Nov. 21: Bali’s Mt. Agung volcano erupts, leaving 59,000 passengers stranded and 445 flights canceled.

Nov. 22: Uber admits that a cyber attack resulted in the phone numbers and email addresses of 57 million users being stolen.

Nov. 29: On a Delta flight from Sao Paulo (GRU) to JFK, a 40-year-old woman punches another passenger and bites flight attendants. She gets arrested, and faces federal charges.

Nov. 30: Following a NAACP travel advisory for African-American passengers, American Airlines makes anti-racism training mandatory for employees.

Bali, Karang Asem, 30 November 2017 : View of Mount Agung in afternoon at Karang Asem - Bali. Mount Agung eruption a little bit cooling down, but still uncertain whethere the big explosion will happen or not. (Photo by Donal Husni/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Photo by Donal Husni/NurPhoto via Getty Images.


Dec. 1: Following riots and protests, Honduras sets a nationwide curfew and airlines allow free flight changes.

Dec. 1: American Airlines bans certain smart bags as checked luggage, citing the potential for their powerful lithium-ion batteries to overheat and cause a fire.

Dec. 2: More US airlines, including Delta and Alaska, follow American's lead in banning smart luggage.

Dec. 4: The Supreme Court allows the Trump administration’s travel ban to take effect while the case moves its way through the lower courts, restricting immigration from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

Dec. 5: Marriott signs new agreements with Chase and American Express to offer new co-branded cards in 2018.

Dec. 6: President Trump recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, resulting in a travel advisory for Americans.

Dec. 8: A Qatar Airways Airbus A321 catches fire at remote stand at the Doha airport (DOH). The aircraft is damaged apparently beyond repair but there are no reported injuries.

Man praying at the wailing wallon February 27, 2017 in Jerusalem, Israel (Photo by Michael Jacobs/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Jacobs/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images.

Featured Illustration by Eirian Chapman