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Published on Sunday, December 30, 2018

'Hake' news, fake claims, snakes on planes and support squirrels...

Once again, the travel sector has been rife with funny and bizarre stories over the past 12 months. So, in no particular order, here's our round-up of OMG-style articles that have made us gasp, giggle or do a double take throughout 2018…

What, the F? was TravelMole's headline when Cathay Pacific spelt its own name incorrectly on the side of one of its aircraft. Cathay did see the funny side and embraced the ridicule on social media, but no-one held their hands up to the mistake.

In another example of not taking responsibility, a man in Baltimore blamed his mum for packing his carry-on bag when airport staff discovered a rifle. Police slapped 22-year-old Ryan Moore with several charges, including illegal firearm possession and violating airport security procedures, before sending him home to Mom for a clip round the ear.

In Florida, a student pilot sent Orlando Melbourne International Airport into lockdown when he jumped the fence and tried to steal a passenger jet. The youth of today...

Having said that, youngsters, it seems, just aren't what they used to be. World Travel Market revealed only 9% of millennials want to get drunk on holiday, with WTM PR manager Paul Nelson saying: "Drunken antics are just not regarded as cool by younger travellers."

No-one could accuse Sir Richard Branson's Virgin group of not being cool. Virgin Voyages' first cruise ship, Scarlet Lady, will have an onboard tattoo and piercing parlour when it launches in 2020 and crew members will be encouraged to 'express themselves freely' through tattoos.

Above the clouds, travellers could be flying out of this world in the second half of 2019 after the Virgin Galactic tourism spaceship made a successful trip to the edge of space and back.

Butlin's got the Royal nod when Prince Harry offered to take wife Meghan to the seaside getaway. Venice discussed plans to fine tourists for sitting down in undesignated areas and pausing on bridges, while Edinburgh wanted to clamp down on increasingly popular 'silent disco tours' because 'whooping' participants were too noisy.

A campaign to rename Nashville International Airport after Oprah Winfrey was turned down because rules state the airport can only be named after an individual who has been dead for at least two years.

The Happiest Place on Earth has become the final resting place for an increasing number of Disney fans who've been flocking to its theme parks to scatter ashes of loved ones. Flower beds and bushes are popular spots, as are the lawns of Magic Kingdom and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Most popular of all is the Haunted Mansion. Who knew?!

Disney is not happy, though, and warned: "Guests who attempt to [scatter ashes] will be escorted off property."

EasyJet captain Lynsey Butcher received a round of applause from passengers when she danced with youngsters on a delayed flight from Lanzarote to Liverpool. The video went viral, leading one person to comment: "Ryanair would charge £5 for a pilot boogie."

Ryanair released CCTV footage that confirmed a photo of its cabin crew 'sleeping' on the floor in Malaga Airport because the airline hadn't provided accommodation, was staged. Six crew members were sacked.

Meanwhile, the airline's head of comms, Robin Kiely, announced he will leave what has been billed the 'worst job in PR' after seven years, in spring 2019. He plans to spend time with his 'very understanding wife'.

Earlier in the year, Ryanair's shy-and-retiring CEO, Michael O'Leary, was announced winner of the world's worst boss award at the 4th International Trade Union Confederation World Congress in Copenhagen.

No end-of-year round-up would be complete without at least one Snakes On a Plane-style incident and this year we've got two. No need to call Samuel L Jackson, though, as, on both occasions, the creatures were spotted by security.

Firstly, an Abu Dhabi-bound Air India passenger was stopped at Cochin International Airport after a live poisonous snake was spotted in hand luggage containing a pack of potatoes. The man was released without charge as authorities believed him when he said he'd bought the potatoes on his way to the airport.

In a second incident, Transportation Security Administration agents at Miami International Airport seized a python carefully hidden inside a computer hard drive.

Passengers kicked up a stink when two tonnes of durian fruit, an expensive delicacy that nevertheless has the 'aroma of an open sewer', was loaded onto their Sriwijaya Air flight to Jakarta. They refused to take their seats and forced crew to remove the offending cargo.

Speaking of smelly food, cruise line Hurtigruten announced plans to power its ships with liquified biogas (LBG), fossil-free, renewable fuel produced from dead fish and other organic waste. Sounds a bit fishy, but we're told this is NOT 'hake' news.

Meanwhile, an airline worker in Kansas City dozed off while in the cargo hold of a Boeing 737 jet and woke up in Chicago, where he was immediately handed over to police.

A British businessman struggled to get comfy when he spent 13 hours 'squashed' next to an obese passenger en route from Bangkok to Heathrow. He brought a £10,000 court case against British Airways, but his case was dismissed after a judge said he had exaggerated the incident.

Now, if you're going to make a fake holiday sickness claim, don't get caught out by bragging about what a great time you had on social media.

2018 was the year fake-sickness fraudsters were exposed by Facebook posts which showed them having the time of their lives while they were supposedly incapacitated and unable to leave the bathroom.

For further proof of how rife this odious practice is, check out this story in which the judge not only threw out the fake claim but refered the matter to police. In another case earlier in the year, a couple was jailed.

On the subject of fake news, an article in EgyptAir's inflight magazine on Drew Barrymore went viral after readers suggested it wasn't real and the Hollywood star's team denied an interview had taken place. The airline later blamed 'translation issues'.

2018 ended on a good note for a Korean Air flight attendant who was awarded nearly $18,000 for being subjected to abuse in the infamous 'nut rage' incident of 2014, when the chairman's daughter had a hissy fit and demanded the flight return to base because she was served nuts in a packet rather than on a plate.

Little-known English football club Blyth Spartans made headlines around the world when fans at its Boxing Day match against Spennymoor Town shared images of adverts encouraging tourists to 'Visit North Korea' under a new sponsorship agreement.

And 2018 will be a year to remember for retired travel agent Graham Ecob, who got the chance to fly in a plane that shares his name, the G-ECOB. Flybe made sure Graham couldn't lose his boarding pass by issuing him with an extra large one.

But, when it comes to the most bizarre stories of 2018, our personal favourite has to be the one about the woman who was thrown off a flight in Orlando after her emotional support animal turned out not to be a cat or dog (both allowed under US airlines' rules) but...wait for it... a squirrel. One word: nuts!

Happy New Year from all of us at TravelMole. 

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