Strangest Travel Headlines (and the Truth Behind the Stories)

PHOTO: Wildlife volunteer rescuers Ella Rountree, left, and Geoffrey Fuller pose for a photo with a kangaroo they captured at Melbourne airport, Australia, Oct. 16, 2013, after the injured kangaroo hopped into the airport terminal pharmacy. Wildlife Victoria/AP Photo
Wildlife volunteer rescuers Ella Rountree, left, and Geoffrey Fuller pose for a photo with a kangaroo they captured at Melbourne airport, Australia, Oct. 16, 2013, after the injured kangaroo hopped into the airport terminal pharmacy.

I have great respect for headline writers. Day in, day out, they come up with can't-look-away bombshells like the New York Post's legendary, "Headless Body in Topless Bar."

Unfortunately, most headlines are not nearly as exciting as the murderous banner Vinnie Musetto created back in 1983 -- but there are still plenty of intriguing ones even in the travel world. Sure, some of the headlines can be a little misleading and sometimes they give you only part of a story.

So as a public service, I've strung together some recent favorites along with the facts behind the headlines. Plus, some laughs (maybe) and some travel tips that may save you a little money.

Headline: 'Kangaroo Checks in at the Airport'

Sounds like the start of a bad joke: "A kangaroo walks into an airport ..." The airport in question was in Australia, of course, where a wayward 'roo managed to hop his way into a shop in the terminal (he was eventually escorted out). You might be surprised to hear animals also turn up at U.S. airports with some regularity. Creatures ranging from alligators to coyotes have been seen roaming runways, although birds hitting planes are far more common.

Tip: Bird strikes can mean big flight delays. The trick for passengers is getting on the next available plane and this calls for disciplined multi-tasking, including, 1.) Try to be first in line to talk to a gate agent; 2.) Get on the phone to the airline (in case that's faster); and 3.) Explain your predicament to the airline via tweets (which may be fastest of all). Try all three at the same time, if you can manage it.

Headline: 'Cheers! Airlines Strive to Select Perfect Wines'

Sounds like a great idea (though don't overdo it or you might be seeing pink kangaroos). The real story behind the headline is that most of these wines are headed to first and business class. If you're in economy, you'll pay but your wine may not be perfect. As a consultant in the story said, "The quality of wine improves the higher you go up in class."

Tip: First class may be within reach for more of us this fall, thanks to Delta. It has some very nice prices for the best seats that compare favorably to premium economy. Couple of gotchas on these: They're good on midweek flights only, between New York City and legacy carrier hubs (plus other large cities, but no West Coast destinations), and most of the planes used on these routes are older, regional jets. But if you can enjoy free wine in a legroom-friendly, first-class seat that you paid less for, who cares?

Headline: 'Airlines Inch Closer to the Final Fee Frontier - Carry-on Bags'

Carry-on fees are not some futuristic concept. That final frontier was breached long before Capt. Kirk ever thought of charging the Enterprise crew for luggage. Spirit was first to boldly go where no airline had gone, adding a carry-on fee in 2010. Actually, it was only first in this country. Low-cost airlines in Europe started the trend but U.S. discounters quickly caught on, with Allegiant following Spirit, and Frontier joining in earlier this year (but only for certain customers). So far, the legacy carriers have resisted but can they hold out much longer? Passenger rights groups might want to sic William Shatner's other alter ego on them; maybe The Negotiator can keep the carriers in line.

Tip: If you fly an airline that charges a carry-on fee, consider checking your bag because it might well be cheaper. If you do decide to use a carry-on, pay the fee at the earliest opportunity since the price goes up the longer you delay. If you wait until getting to the gate to pay, Spirit will charge you a cool $100.

Headline: 'Passenger Islanders to Live Aboard Commercial Airplane'

Recently the coach of the New York Islanders was not happy with his team's performance, slamming the hockey players as "passengers" -- as in just along for the ride or not Gretzky-ish enough or something. Then, the coach took it a step further. According to a media report, he apparently ordered the team to live like passengers by camping out in an old Lufthansa 737 at Long Island's Republic Airport. Players will supposedly eat their meals on the plane (hope the guys like peanuts and pretzels) and even sleep there.

Tip: If your boss ever tries something like this, volunteer to pass out the pillow and blankets; those fees could make you rich (U.S. Airways charges $7 while Virgin America gets 10 bucks for this amenity). You might also want to consult someone well-versed in statutes relating to torture.