By Travel writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 4/1/2008 10:04:51 AM ET 2008-04-01T14:04:51

This just in: It’s April Fool’s Day, so don’t believe everything you read — except, that is, right here.

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That’s right, instead of offering another hoax news story, this column is taking a different approach, serving up a selection of true stories that honor the spirit of the day. And because they clearly take the cake for weirdness, it seems only fitting to pay appropriate homage.

Introducing the first annual Dotty Awards, also known as the DOTties in honor of the institution that oversees so many of our travel experiences. I’m talking, of course, of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), whose core competency, so to speak, all but defines the state of travel as we know it:

“The mission of the Department is to: Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.”

How could you not name the awards after an agency that’s done so much for efficiency, convenience and the quality of life for travelers? Not only that, and I kid you not, the department’s first day of operation was April Fool’s Day, 1967.

So, without further ado, here are this year’s Dotty winners, air-travel division:

The Tony Clifton Award for Boorish Behavior
Named after Andy Kaufman’s abusive alter ego, this award is given to the member of the flying public who displays the year’s most egregiously obnoxious conduct. It was a tough call — the Frenchman who struck a flight attendant, the Canadian real estate agent who pinched another, those two “too pretty to fly” princesses who genuinely need a good slap — but there can be only one winner.

And the Dotty goes to Aiden Simon Mackle of Portadown, Northern Ireland, who was pulled off an Atlanta–Dublin flight in Bangor, Maine, for drinking, verbally abusing one flight attendant, punching another one and responding to the resulting ruckus by claiming to be a terrorist. Even worse, the guy had the unmitigated gall to smoke a cigarette in the loo.

The Wrong Way Corrigan Award for Creative Course-setting
For a while, it looked like the go! pilots who overshot the Hilo airport by 15 miles in early March — possibly because they were asleep at the yoke — would take top honors. Alas, that dream was shattered several days later when pilots on a KLM flight from Amsterdam to Hyderabad missed the city’s Shamshabad Airport.

Truth be told, they may have had a valid excuse as the airport had been open for only two days. But that doesn’t explain why they continued on for another 1,500 miles, visiting both Delhi and Mumbai. Nor is there any word on whether passengers will get the extra Flying Blue points.

The Star Simpson Award for Asinine Insecurity
Ms. Simpson, you’ll remember, was the MIT student who showed up at Logan Airport last September wearing a sweatshirt adorned with a computer circuit board and dangling wires. She called it art; authorities called it a fake bomb; and she’s expected to go on trial in May.

But the Dotty itself goes to April Wormly of Hobbs, N.M., who called the San Antonio airport — 36 times! — to say there was a bomb on a departing plane. According to court testimony, she did it because she was trying to break up with her boyfriend who was on board. Presumably, getting sentenced to two years in prison will accomplish that. (Ed. note: This incident also happened in 2007, but Wormly was sentenced earlier this month, so the award is honorary.)

The Ralph Fiennes Award for Frisky Flying
It’s been just over a year since Lord Voldemort and a frisky flight attendant reportedly got down to business in a business-class lav somewhere between Australia and India. Alas, it’s been rather quiet on the sky-high celebrity canoodling front ever since.

Which means we have no choice but to award a half-Dotty each to Sienna Miller and Rhys Ifans, who, according to The (South Africa) Star, engaged in their own in-flight frolicking after this year’s Oscars. Apparently, there were no mile-high club membership attempts, but the story noted that Ifans stripped off his shirt at one point. Admittedly, that’s pretty harmless, but still, you have to wonder: Is Sienna herself a bit dotty — or has she just never seen Notting Hill?

And finally ...
No award program is complete without a Hall of Fame, and the Dotty nominating committee has unanimously agreed to award OssiUrlaub.de, a German travel agency, the inaugural honor. In January, the firm began selling seats for a special flight to the resort town of Usedom on July 5. The target market? Nudists.

Hey, more power to all concerned, although it does put that whole jump-up-and-jam-the-aisle-as-soon-as-the-plane-touches-down thing in a whole new perspective — at least for those of us who usually remain seated. If you thought a shirtless Rhys Ifans was bad, try getting that image out of your head.

Got a candidate for a future Dotty? From foolish cruisers to hotel hanky panky, feel free to share them here.

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