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Department of Justice Fights to Block American-US Airways Merger

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The Department of Justice, joined by six states and Washington, D.C., filed an antitrust suit this morning in efforts to halt the proposed merger between American Airlines and US Airways.

The lawsuit comes as a shock to many in the industry, given that airline analysts had not foreseen major complications to the merger when it was announced in February. The T+L Trip Doctor team reported then that the formation of the world’s largest airline would inherently decrease competition and increase ticket prices, specifically to destinations such as Dallas, Miami and Philadelphia. Experts also predicted possible cuts in service to Phoenix, although aviation analysts did not foresee any major objections. This belief was cemented when the merger gained approval from European regulators just last week.

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Sinkhole Near Disney World Swallows Section of Resort

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It’s normal for visitors to Walt Disney World to worry about falling from the sky—the Tower of Terror, Splash Mountain, and other rides all feature nausea-inducing drops. But last night, the worry was of plummeting into the earth below.

Late Sunday, a 40-foot wide sinkhole opened at Summer Bay Resort, a condominium vacation complex located just minutes from Walt Disney World. Guests first became alarmed when their lights went off, but creaking noises and large cracks forming on the wall signified something grimmer than a mere power outage.

A security guard ran through the complex telling the roughly 35 guests in the affected buildings to evacuate. Within minutes, the hole had swallowed about a third of two buildings. Just fifteen feet deep, the shallow sinkhole totally destroyed 48 condo units, and no injuries were reported.

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Trip Doctor: Norovirus on a Plane—What You Need to Know

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This morning’s news of a possible norovirus outbreak on a Qantas flight from Santiago, Chile to Sydney, Australia, has us all on edge. Known for wreaking havoc on cruise ships, the norovirus is not a typical worry for fliers. Should it be?

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Trip Doctor: Is Train Travel in Europe Safe?

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Recent news from the railroads of Europe has not been good: On July 12, an intercity train derailed at a station outside of Paris, resulting in 6 casualties. On July 25, 79 passengers died when a high-speed train from Madrid careened off the tracks. And earlier this week, two trains collided in Switzerland, killing one and injuring dozens more.

The three fatal crashes give cause for thought: Are European railroads safe?

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Trip Doctor: New Twitter-Themed Hotel Opens in Mallorca

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OMG, is this the latest #traveltrend? The Sol Wave House hotel in beachy Mallorca, Spain, has officially become the world's first Twitter-themed hotel.

Not sure what that means?

Well, first-off, it means there are going to be a lot of #hashtags everywhere (and probably a few in this post as well #sorrynotsorry). Guests join a virtual community called #SocialWave, accessible only through the hotel's WiFi. Using that hashtag, they can then chat away with other guests and with the hotel's two Twitter concierges.

According to an online press release from Meliá Hotels International, the Sol Wave House's parent company, the whole experience “guarantees fun, new friendships, experiences, surprise, excitement and 'buzz'” and encourages guests to “flirt, compete in contests, share photos, etc.”

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Trip Doctor: New Oahu Smoking Ban Extends to Beaches

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Visitors to Oahu will soon breath more easily, thanks to new smoking bans that Honolulu’s mayor Kirk Caldwell signed into law yesterday. The prohibitions extend an existing Hawaii state ban—which already includes all indoor and partially enclosed public places such as restaurants and bars—to bus stops and parks on the island of Oahu. In other words, no more lighting up on Waikiki. For another smoke-free beach environment, don’t miss Jamaica, which also banned smoking tobacco on its beaches this month.

Peter Schlesinger is a Research Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

Trip Doctor: Will Heathrow Airport Close?

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Could Heathrow close?

Heathrow airport, Great Britain’s major international hub, handled a whopping 70 million passengers last year. Its two runways, however, cannot allow for much more than that. Enter the Davies Airports Commission—so-called after its chairman, Sir Howard Davies—which is aiming to fix the UK’s at-capacity airports.

One option? London mayor Boris Johnson wants to buy the airport, shut it down, and replace it with a mega-airport on an island in the Thames River’s estuary to the East.

Mayor Johnson outlined his plans a few days ago to the commission, and hopes to transform Heathrow’s land into a neighborhood for up 250,000, as the Guardian’s Gwyn Topham reports. The new airport could have four runways operating by 2029, all for a price tag of over $75 billion. And on Friday, renowned design firm Foster + Partners formally submitted its architectural plans for the island-hub.

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Coming Soon: New Trail Set To Trace Historic Explorer's Route from South Sudan to Uganda

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Fans of the T+L Hiking Guide who've already completed the Appalachian Trail, the pilgrimage to Santiago, or the climb to Machu Picchu will soon have another path to traverse: The Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Historical Trail, covering nearly 360 miles in South Sudan* and Uganda.

The route is the same one that Samuel Baker, a British officer, took with his wife in the 1860s. Traveling south from present-day South Sudan, the couple became the first Europeans to see what they would name Lake Albert, which marks the terminus of the new trail.

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Trip Doctor: New Airline Survey from Skytrax Picks Global Favorites

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The plane surveys keep on coming. Just a few weeks ago, Trip Doctor reported on a slew of recent polls that give insight into what Americans think about flying nowadays. And at the recent Paris Air Show, Skytrax announced its winners for the 2013 World Airline Awards.  While the surveys we wrote about earlier show what American flyers are thinking, the Skytrax awards offer a more global scope, with respondents from over 160 countries taking part in the poll.

Some of the takeaways?

  • Emirates earns the coveted “Airline of the Year,” and wins for best Inflight Entertainment

  • Garuda Indonesia wins best Economy Class Seats and best Economy Class overall, making it a Top 10 scorer for the first time

  • All Nipon Airways claims the best Aircraft Cabin Cleanliness award

  • Cathay Pacific Airways is awarded best Cabin Staff

  • Etihad Airways nabs best First Class Seats and best First Class overall

  • AirAsia is the best Low-Cost Airline

If you’re thinking that the list seems dominated by Asian and Middle Eastern airlines, you’re correct. Of the Top 10 airlines, only 10th ranked Qantas hails from outside Asia and the Middle East.

See the full results here

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team.

Photo courtesy of Emirates

Trip Doctor: Hotels Celebrate Supreme Court's Gay Marriage Rulings Just in Time for Pride

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Today's Supreme Court rulings—striking down DOMA and essentially paving the way for same-sex marriage in California—have helped make this Pride month prouder than ever. A number of hotels are sharing in the celebrations by offering special promotions geared for LGBT guests, their allies, and their causes.

Here, T+L takes a quick look at a few of them:

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