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Therapy pig roams San Francisco airport, greets travelers

Anxious and stressed travelers passing through San Francisco International Airport now have a new way to calm their nerves thanks to the airport's newest member of the Wag Brigade.

 >> Read more trending stories 

The airport introduced LiLou, a therapy pig, as the first non-canine member of the Wag Brigade, a group of nearly two dozen trained therapy dogs that walk around the airport greeting travelers in an effort to ease the stress of traveling. Travelers are encouraged to pet the dogs as a way to bring comfort and to quell any fears of flying. 

LiLou, a spotted Juliana pig, has now joined the ranks of the group, roaming terminals in costumes and entertaining guests. Sometimes she twirls and stands on her back legs while wearing a tutu, and other times she plays a toy piano, USA Today reported.

"Since its launch in 2013, the SFO Wag Brigade has become a favorite amenity among travelers," Christopher Birch, director of guest experience, said in a news release announcing LiLou's admission to the Wag Brigade. "With the addition of LiLou, we can look forward to more moments of surprise and delight for guests at our airport."

A photo posted by LiLou (@lilou_sfpig) on Oct 16, 2016 at 6:19pm PDT <script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>

"I can see that she is happy showing off her tricks and getting her praise," LiLou's owner, Tatyana Danilova, told USA Today. "It also brings positive emotions to me seeing that we can do something good for the community and bring more smiles in some unconventional way."

LiLou visits the airport at least once a month, according to airport spokesman Doug Yakel, who also said that the airport has been working with the San Fransisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to expand the types of animals included on the Wag Brigade. Lilou, who will turn 2 on Dec. 15,  is the first pig to be certified in the Animal Assisted Therapy Program of the San Francisco SPCA.

The SFSPCA requires that "At a minimum, AAT pets must be solicitous and fully comfortable with handling. In other words, pets must be interested in and eager to approach people and accept handling, regardless of the person's age, gender, race, size, mobility equipment usage and apparel."

 According to Conde Nast Traveler, more than 30 airports nationwide have programs that feature therapy dogs, and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has brought in miniature horses in a similar effort. 

See more of LiLou, who has dressed as a nurse, a pilot and a fairy, on her Instagram account.

A photo posted by LiLou (@lilou_sfpig) on Dec 2, 2016 at 9:17pm PST <script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>

Disney reveals Death Star at Epcot

A Disney parks icon had a new look Monday night.

Epcot at Walt Disney World in Florida held a special event Monday night to celebrate Star Wars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the upcoming release of the film "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

During the event, Epcot’s iconic Spaceship Earth was magically transformed into the Death Star, the devastating battle station seen in the original "Star Wars" movie. 

>> Read more trending stories  

The Death Star overlay was done through digital projections, complete with laser beams shooting into the night sky.

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The event was attended by Mads Mikkelsen who plays Galen Erso in the latest Star Wars installment. "Rogue One" hits theaters Dec. 16, with early screenings on Dec. 15. 

Watch the entire event below:

Plane diverted after baby born during flight

Normally a baby crying during a flight isn't a welcome sound, but this time it was when the trip from Philadelphia to Orlando landed with one extra passenger on board.

A woman delivered a baby while in the air on Southwest Flight 556, WCSC reported.

>> Read more trending stories  

Luckily there were medical professionals, two doctors and a nurse, on the flight who helped with the delivery of the baby boy, Al.com reported.

The plane was met by first responders when it was diverted to Charleston Sunday before the rest of the passengers continued on their way to Orlando.

Al.com reported that the baby was at 26 weeks and the baby and new parents were taken to a Charleston hospital.

Woman opens emergency exit door, jumps out of plane

A woman who flew to Houston from New Orleans didn't follow disembarkation instructions, but rather took matters into her own hands.

The unidentified woman opened an emergency exit door and jumped out of a plane as it was taxiing down the runway at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

The plane was headed toward its gate, airline spokeswoman Maddie King, said.

>> Read more trending stories  

Hampton Friedman, a passenger who was sitting across the aisle from the woman, captured a photo that showed the open door. 

"I realized when the door popped open, and a woman stepped out of it," he told CNN. Cathy Cole, another passenger, said the woman took off running toward the terminal.

"Somebody on the plane said, 'We have a runner,' and they kept repeating it," Cole told KHOU. "I was traveling with my sister, and she looked out the window, and she saw a woman on the tarmac running toward the terminal."

Another witness told KHOU that the woman didn't say anything before opening the door and jumping about 15 feet to the ground.

<iframe width="390" height="219" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EVtEmuEfkQ8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Flight passengers waited on the plane for over an hour while police boarded and searched the aircraft. 

"They kept telling us to wait, stay in our seats, stay seated," Cole told KHOU. "The captain came on air and said, you know, the police will be boarding the plane. They came on the plane with their dog."

According to KHOU, the woman was not charged and prosecutors said she is undergoing psychological tests.

"I've flown all over the world, and I've been on lots of really long flights, and I've never experienced anything like this," Cole said. "I have no earthly idea why she would want to do that."

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.8";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> We landed and waited for gate to open up as we were 30 min early.  A lady opened emergency exit door which she was...Posted by Cathy Cole on Monday, November 28, 2016

Gatlinburg aquarium: 'Animals are safe' after devastating Tennessee wildfires

Wildfires fueled by high winds roared through parts of the Great Smoky Mountains, burning the doorstep of the Dollywood theme park, destroying a resort and chasing thousands of people from their homes. In its ashy wake were scorched cars and buildings, and soot-covered debris covered in a smoky haze, The Associated Press reported.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Gatlinburg wildfire threatens Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies; employees forced to abandon building

But Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies posted a hopeful update Tuesday afternoon: All its animals are safe.

"For the safety of our employees and guests, all of our Attractions will remain closed until the evacuation has lifted," the property said in a Facebook post. "We have a team of Marine Biologists and Life Support Experts inside the Aquarium and are happy to report that the animals are safe."

>> Read the post here

For the safety of our employees and guests, all of our Attractions will remain closed until the evacuation has lifted....Posted by Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies on Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ryan DeSear, general manager of the aquarium, also spoke to the Knoxville News-Sentinel

"All is fine here at Ripley's Aquarium. Obviously, the city has had a lot of problems, and it has been very hard for us to get into this building, but all the animals are fine. Life support's working great, and the building is coming along just fine, so we're very positive moving forward that we're not going to have any issues."

He added, "We're very grateful, obviously, to all the people that have been working these fires. ... All is good. We got very lucky here at the aquarium, and we look forward to getting back to business as usual when the time comes."

>> Watch the video here

Earlier reports were harrowing.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Dollywood, other Tennessee tourist destinations evacuated due to wildfires

“We are still not allowed into the city at this time,” the property posted as flamed crept closer to Gatlinburg. “I know our Biologists are trying to get into the city as quickly as they can. We will post updates as soon as we have them.”

>> Read more trending stories

The aquarium also shared DeSear's video showing the town under smoky siege:

Arsonists need to go to prison for a long timePosted by Ryan DeSear on Monday, November 28, 2016

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Beagle Brigade help confiscate roasted pig, horse meat sausages over Thanksgiving weekend at airport

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents say their Beagle Brigade helped confiscate several illegal items -- including an entire roasted pig -- from travelers flying out of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Joey, a beagle pup, alerted agents Wednesday to the bag of a traveler from Peru to find the pig. Agents said it was seized and destroyed.

On the same day, agents said a traveler arriving from Uzbekistan was found to have fruit trees, carrots and cured sausages consisting of horse meat.

Investigators said the fruit trees lacked a United States Department of Agriculture import permit and phytosanitary certificates, while the meat and fresh carrots were seized to prevent the potential introduction of pests or animal diseases.

“Our best defense against destructive pests and animal diseases is to prevent the entry of prohibited agriculture products they use as vectors from entering the United States,” said Carey Davis, CBP Area Port director for the Port of Atlanta.“One measure Customs and Border Protection employs to intercept prohibited agriculture products is the effective deployment of highly-trained K-9 units. These seizures at ATL illustrate the tremendous expertise of our four-legged K-9 partners in protecting the United States’ many agriculture industries.”

On Friday, Candie, also a Beagle, alerted agents to a bag that belonged a traveler from Bulgaria containing fig trees, tulip bulbs and almond seeds, and seized it for destruction.

Delta apologizes after passenger goes on profanity-laced Trump rant in packed plane

Delta Air Lines apologized for a "disruption" on one of its flights this week after video posted to social media showed a man shouting at fellow passengers in support of President-elect Donald Trump.

>> Read more trending stories

"Donald Trump, baby," the man yells to his fellow passengers as he stood and clapped. "We got some Hillary (expletives) on here? Come on, baby. Trump!"

Video of the Tuesday incident, which contains explicit language, was posted to Facebook by one of the flight's passengers. It was shot on Delta Flight 248, bound for Allentown, Pennsylvania, from Atlanta.

"Donald Trump is your president, every (expletive) one of you," the man tells the crowded plane. "If you don't like it, too bad."

The outburst garnered uncomfortable looks from many of the flight's passengers, to the man's apparent disappointment. A man across the aisle, one row ahead of the shouting man, ignored him while reading. A woman nearby resolutely stared at her phone.

One man, however, appeared to support the public display of support. The shouting man clapped for him.

Despite the flight's interruption, it went on as scheduled.

"We have followed up with the teams involved and all agree that this customer should not have been allowed to continue on the flight," Delta said Saturday in a statement. "Our responsibility for ensuring all customers feel safe and comfortable with Delta includes requiring civil behavior from everyone."

The airliner said it plans to review its training materials to ensure that employees "know they will be fully supported to make the right decisions when these issues arise."

The man has not been identified.

These "magic words" will save you big

Here at Budget Travel we speak fluent French, Italian, Spanish, and other languages. But we've also mastered the phrases that can score you a deep discount, a steep upgrade, or some tasty perks.

Have you ever had a conversation where moments—or even days—later you realize, "I wish I'd said that"? Travel booking and airline and hotel check-ins can often feel like that, with so many questions, options, and price points to juggle. The travel experts at Budget Travel have been there and back. We've assembled a 12-point cheat sheet with twelve phrases to help make your next travel booking easier, nab you some upgrades, and save you money.

"Can I get an upgrade?"

Well, that question seems a little on-the-nose, doesn't it? But most airline passengers never ask, and it can pay off. Ask politely, and if you're met with silence, be willing to wait for an answer instead of backing down. Last-minute first and business class seat availability can mean you pay an "up-sell" fee (typically $50 and up) to get out of coach. The same question can work at a hotel, especially if it's a hotel that caters to business travelers and you're checking in over the weekend.

"Bump me!"

Airline crews deal with a lot of tired, anxious, and sometimes just plain cranky passengers all day every day. Letting them know that you're willing to get bumped to another flight solves some major problems for them—and can result in your being moved up to first class just because you were willing to be accommodating. Note: It might also get you bumped, so use this phrase only if you mean it.

"I serve in the military."

We can't guarantee it, but first-class passengers have been known to trade seats with military personnel as a way of saying "thank you" for their service. On a more predictable note, cruise lines will often offer a discount if you tell them about your military service.

"Would you like some chocolate?"

This may sound a little precious, but handing out one-pound chocolate bars to the gate agents and flight crew gets John E. DiScala, founder of travel advice site johnnyjet.com, a better coach seat or upgrade about half the time.

"We're on our honeymoon!"

Our evidence here is anecdotal, but Budget Travel readers have reported that telling airline personnel at check-in that you're newlyweds can get you moved to first or business class. Hotels, of course, will almost always respond with an indulgence or two. But don't say it if it's not true—apart from the fact that lying is wrong, you may have a difficult time answering questions about your alleged recent nuptials!

"I have kids."

Hotels may be willing to upgrade you to a suite at no charge, and if you ask for a later check-out to accommodate the little ones you'll almost always get a thumbs-up.

"I'm flying alone."

When airlines try to accommodate families who want to sit together, it helps if they know they can move your seat, and there's a chance they'll move you to first or business class, where single empty seats are more common.

"Give me the cheapest car you have."

We know, we know. When renting a car, you don't really want to cram yourself into the cheapest model in the company's garage. But if you're willing to take the chance, booking the lowest-priced car available and showing up super-early in the morning (before most people have returned their rental cars) can garner you a free upgrade to a bigger car.

"Has the price gone down?"

Yeah, airline seats and hotel room prices fluctuate, and there's a chance that the price has dropped since you made your reservation. Call the airline or hotel regularly as your trip approaches and, if the price goes down, ask for a refund or re-book. (But make sure there's no significant re-booking fee!)

"Is that 'free' newspaper going to cost me $25?"

Resorts are notorious for tacking on fees up to $25 per night for goodies you might assume were free—including pool towels, Wi-Fi, newspaper delivery, gym access, and even access to the resort's casino. Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Las Vegas are especially known for these non-negotiable surprises. Your best bet it to ask about extra fees up front when making a reservation.

"I'm a return customer."

When booking a cruise, mentioning that you've sailed with the line before can nab you a 5 to 15 percent discount on your fare.

"I'm 55+."

Yup, just remembering the 1960s should get you a 5 percent discount from most cruise lines.

See More From Budget Travel:6 Easy Ways to Save on a CruiseThe Right—and Wrong—Way to Pay for Your Dream Trip12 Most Iconic Rivers on Earth

AAA predicts busiest Thanksgiving travel season since 2007

If you’re traveling this Thanksgiving week, plan ahead.

>> Read more trending stories

AAA estimates 49 million Americans will be traveling more than 50 miles from home this holiday. That’s one million more people than traveled last year.

AAA spokeswoman Tamra Johnson said an improving economy and low gas prices are main factors for the surge in travelers. Nearly 90 percent of Thanksgiving travelers will be on the roads.

“Those numbers are the highest we've seen since 2007,” Johnson said. “We really feel like people are taking advantage of the lower gas prices and driving this year.”

Johnson estimates that lower gas prices have saved American’s $28 billion dollars over the last year.

The driving group says some of the most popular destinations include Las Vegas, New York City, Orlando and Seattle.

AAA’s Leisure Travel Index projects airfares will increase 21 percent this Thanksgiving, with round-trip flights for the top 40 domestic routes averaging $205. Daily rental car averages lowered 13 percent to $52.

The driving membership group is planning to help 370,000 stranded drivers. The most common cause for calls will be blown tires, batteries needing to be charged and drivers locking themselves out of their cars.

AAA defines the Thanksgiving travel period as Wednesday through Sunday.

Coming soon: Magic Kingdom to add in-park cabanas for rent, but they won't come cheap

Disney is adding in-park cabanas at the Magic Kingdom for guests to rent, according to WDW News Today.

But renting one will come at a hefty price.

>> Read more trending stories  

WDW News Today’s blog said the Kingdom Cabanas will be added to the park Nov. 27, and will be available for a daily rental price of $649.    

The cabanas will be placed near Space Mountain in Tomorrowland, and will accommodate up to eight guests, the blog said.

The blog also said that amenities in the Kingdom Cabanas include private and shaded seating, cold beverages, snacks and reserved viewing space for parades and fireworks.

Anyone interested in booking a cabana can call 407-WDW-PLAY or they can visit the concierge at any Disney World Resort Hotel.

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