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Florida Keys Tar Balls NOT from BP Oil Spill

CNN News |  Tar balls found on Florida Keys beaches Monday and Tuesday are not from a massive oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, the Coast Guard said Wednesday.

"A sampling of tar balls discovered on beaches at Fort Zachary State Park, Fla., Smathers Beach in Key West, Big Pine Key, Fla., and Loggerhead Key in the Dry Tortugas National Park, Fla., were flown by a Coast Guard HU-25 Falcon jet based in Miami, Fla., to New London, Conn., Tuesday for testing and analysis," a Coast Guard statement said.

"The results of those tests conclusively show that the tar balls collected from Florida Keys beaches do not match the type of oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico," the statement said. "The source of the tar balls remains unknown at this time."

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Europe Flights Take Off, But What About the Backlog?

The first flights to take off in a week may have left London's Heathrow Airport yesterday and many of Europe's airports may once again be open, but there are still thousands of people stranded around the world, unable to fly due to ash from Iceland's recent volcanic explosion.

If you're not one of the lucky fliers who happened to be flying Emirates Air (the airline went above and beyond and is paying for hotel stays and three meals a day for some 6,000 passengers stuck in Dubai!), chances are you're ready for this ordeal to be O-V-E-R. Now, the question us who gets dibs on some of the first flights out?  For details on who goes to the front of the check-in line, check out CNN's excellent Q&A today:


How are airlines prioritizing ticket allocation?
Other than a few special cases, most airlines are prioritizing those with pre-existing tickets for scheduled flights. In some cases, empty seats on these are being filled by customers with urgent travel needs. Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific says it is giving priority to unaccompanied minors and students heading back to the UK to sit exams. Singapore Airlines is fast tracking those with "special needs," the elderly and those with infants or young children. Rochelle Turner, head of vacation research for consumer watchdog Which?, says any prioritizing is at the discretion of individual flight operators. "The elderly, the sick, frequent flyers—it's entirely up to the airline who goes first."

Do I need to do anything if I have a ticket on a scheduled flight?
All airlines are advising customers to double check whether flights are going ahead before heading to airports. British Airways is even urging customers with tickets on scheduled departures to consider delaying their travel plans to free up space on planes to allow delayed passengers to travel. In most cases, passengers who hold tickets for a flight due to take off as scheduled should be fine. Says Turner, it is still advisable to call the airline to confirm or check-in online.

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Adrien Glover is the online deputy editor at Travel + Leisure.

 

Travel Chaos as Ash Closes Air Space



CNN London |  European countries shut their airspace one after the other Thursday as a cloud of volcanic ash wafted over from Iceland and posed a danger to flights.

Airspace over the United Kingdom was due to be closed for six hours from midday but air authorities later extended the closure until at least 7 a.m. BST (2 a.m. EST) Friday.

Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands also announced the closure of their airspace, authorities in each country said.

Norway also closed its ocean territory and canceled helicopter flights to off-shore oil installations, according to Avinor, the Norwegian agency responsible for the Norwegian airport network.

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8 Hurricanes Predicted for the Atlantic

CNN |  University forecasters predict the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season will be above average, with 15 named storms and eight of those becoming hurricanes.

The Colorado State University report was released Wednesday, nearly two months before the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1.

In the report, forecasters William Gray and Phil Klotzbach said that El Niño conditions will dissipate by summer and that unusually warm tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures will persist, leading to favorable conditions for hurricanes to develop and intensify.

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BA to Launch Second Wave of Strikes

CNNBritish Airways cabin crews were set to start a second wave of strikes at midnight Friday over the airline's planned changes to pay and working conditions.

The strike, set to last for four days, follows a three-day strike last weekend.

BA said Friday it will be able to fly more than 75 percent of customers booked to fly during the upcoming strike because so many staff are willing to cross the picket lines. Another 18 percent of passengers are booked to fly on other carriers or have changed their travel dates to avoid the strike, the airline said.

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Paperless Boarding Takes off at United

CNN |  More air travelers may soon be scanning their smartphones instead of paper slips at airport gates.

United has become the latest airline to offer mobile boarding passes for customers equipped with Web-enabled mobile phones or devices, such as iPhones or BlackBerrys.

United passengers traveling within the United States, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands can now log on to mobile.united.com to check in for their flights via their smartphones.

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Hackers Expose Security Flaws with 'Elvis Presley' Passport

201002-b-elvisjpgLondon, England (CNN) | In the name of improved security a hacker showed how a biometric passport issued in the name of long-dead rock 'n' roll king Elvis Presley could be cleared through an automated passport scanning system being tested at an international airport.

Using a doctored passport at a self-serve passport machine, the hacker was cleared for travel after just a few seconds and a picture of the King himself appeared on the monitor's display.

Adam Laurie and Jeroen Van Beek, who call themselves "ethical hackers," say the exercise exposed how easy it is to fool a passport scanner with a fraudulent biometric chip.

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U.S. Renews Travel Alert to Mexico

Washington (CNN) |  The United States has renewed a travel alert to Mexico, citing increased violence in the country.

The alert, issued Sunday by the State Department, is in effect until August 20 and supersedes an alert issued August 20, 2009.

"Recent violent attacks have caused the U.S. Embassy to urge U.S. citizens to delay unnecessary travel to parts of Michoacan, Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua ... and to advise U.S. citizens residing or traveling in those areas to exercise extreme caution," the alert says.

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UPDATE: Lufthansa Strike Suspended

Frankfurt, Germany (CNN) |  Both sides in a pilots strike against Lufthansa have agreed to suspend the standoff —which has canceled hundreds of flights—at midnight (6 p.m. Monday ET).

The suspension is set to expire on March 8, barring the reaching of an agreement before then, both sides said in a Frankfurt labor court.

"The judge was very clear," airline spokesman Klaus Walther said. "He recommended the union to stop the strike action and to return to the negotiation table."

Walther predicted the two sides would reach a final agreement "pretty fast."

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1,500-Year-Old Street Found in Jerusalem

CNN News |  Archaeologists working under the direction of the Israeli Antiquities Authority have uncovered a 1500-year-old road running through the center of Jerusalem's Old City.

Excavation director Dr. Ofer Sion said the discovery lends further credence to the accuracy of what is known as the Madaba Map—a Byzantine period mosaic map of the Holy Land that depicts an entrance into Jerusalem that leads to a single central street.

Archaeologists working in Jerusalem have made various finds to suggest the Madaba map was geographically correct, but the road depicted in the mosaic had not been found.

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