Every Friday, we help you navigate the week’s most important and most interesting travel news stories.

Keep up with our dispatches all week by following @BBC_Travel or tracking the hashtag #bbcinbrief.

Amazing things that should happen more often

LivingSocial launched Instant Escapes, a service offering last-minute travel deals discounted up to 55%. The new service compliments LivingSocial Escapes, which offers packages that can be booked months in advance. Instant Escapes offers mostly single night hotel stays every Wednesday for the upcoming weekend, good for those of us who don't like to plan in advance. [MSNBC]

Ready for takeoff  
All set to go, but too soon to tell what’s ahead

Southwest Airlines and TLC are teaming up to create a reality TV show that will run in spring 2012. Southwest's second TV run will feature maintenance workers, food-and-drink providers, pilots and flight attendants. But will understanding challenges like getting luggage on board make passengers more sympathetic when their bags are lost? We doubt it. [MSNBC]

Hold on folks, we’re in for a rocky ride

A group of delayed passengers staged a five-hour sit-in on a plane in Hong Kong, refusing to leave the plane until Hong Kong Airlines agreed to increase the compensation from $50 to $150. But it at the cost of five hours of vacation time, it seems only a small victory. [CNN]

A man is suing Southwest Airlines, saying the carrier owes him 45 free alcoholic drinks after it decided to stop honouring free-drink coupons which lacked expiration dates. The lawsuit seeks class-action status for other Southwest customers who feel they're entitled to some free beverages. [Reuters]

The New 7 Wonders of Nature list was released last week, and it had several questionable selections, including South Africa's Table Mountain and South Korea's Jeju Island. Travel blogger Michael Hodson investigated the selection process and made some pretty disturbing discoveries, if they are all valid. [Go, See, Write]

Unexpected, and not looking good

In a cost-cutting scheme that seems more likely to be hatched by Mr Burns than a real company, United Airlines trains pilots with computer slideshows instead of practising in a simulator or with classroom time, pilots said. They said rushed training has led to safety hazards including three flights that almost landed without putting their wheels down. [Washington Post]

The Transportation Department fined US airline American Eagle $900,000 for a lengthy tarmac delay. But this might not be good news for passengers, as threats of fines could cause airlines to start cancelling flights altogether. [USA Today/Associated Press]

It’s a no-go

Comtel Air has taken increased fees to a new, despicable level. Passengers accused the Austrian carrier of holding them to ransom Tuesday after a plane carrying 170 people to Birmingham was grounded in Vienna for six hours until the passengers raised £24,000 in unpaid fees. Thousands in unpaid landing fees and airport taxes has also led Comtel to cancel seven other flights this week, leaving hundreds of passengers to find a new way home. [Telegraph]

Celebrity Cruises cancelled all parasailing excursions in the Caribbean indefinitely after a 60-year-old woman fell to her death in the Virgin Islands this week. [USA Today]

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