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Delta, American Airlines Pull Fares Off Some Travel Sites

USA Today |  Travelers wanting to book a flight online will find fewer options now that two of the nation's biggest airlines have stripped their fares from some travel sites.

Those looking to fly on American can no longer book trips on Orbitz as of Dec. 21, while Delta stopped allowing three websites — CheapOAir.com, OneTravel.com, and BookIt.com — to list its flights after Dec. 17.

It's a move that more airlines may follow in an effort to cut costs, promote their brand and increase their ability to sell aspects of the travel experience that bolster the bottom line, some travel experts say. But some industry observers worry that the winnowing of booking outlets could ultimately make it harder for consumers to find the best deal.

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Boeing: Space Tourism Flights Possible by 2015

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USA Today | Boeing says it's ready to jump into the space-tourism market, announcing on Wednesday that will enter into a partnership to sell seats on rocket trips to the International Space Station.

"Now Boeing just has to build a spaceship," The Associated Press writes.

Boeing's just-announced partnership is with the space-tourism company Space Adventures. The Washington Post explains, saying the agreement is for the companies "to establish a space taxi system that will launch its passengers into low Earth orbit. Boeing has been developing a capsule and has years of experience building rockets, while Space Adventures has organized seven trips to the space station aboard the Russian spacecraft Soyuz. The obstacles remain high, but the two companies say they think they can begin their service by the end of 2015." Photo Credit: iStock

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Airfares from U.S. to Europe Much Higher than Vice Versa

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USA Today |  Americans flying to Europe this fall may pay hundreds of dollars more than their counterparts traveling the opposite way over the Atlantic.

Round-trip fares from several U.S. cities to European hot spots like Paris, London and Amsterdam are up to 66% higher than the price for trips originating overseas, says Tom Parsons, founder of Bestfares.com, who scouted fares from the last week of October through March 31.

"Between the same cities, (for the) same seats, same days of week ... one country gets an advantage over the other," says Parsons, who found similar pricing at most of the major carriers including Continental, Delta and United, as well as international airlines such as KLM. "Because we're Americans, we pay more." Photo credit: Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic.

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Wisconsin Bans Smoking in All Hotel Guestrooms

USA TODAY | Unlike most other non-smoking states, Wisconsin in July passed a statewide smoking ban that bans smoking in every hotel guestroom.

In most states that have banned smoking in public places, such as Kansas, the legislation allows hoteliers to exempt a certain percentage of guestrooms.

But in Wisconsin, "there can be zero rooms" that allow smoking in sleeping rooms, Trisha Pugal, CEO of Wisconsin Hotel and Lodging Association told me in an interview.

And the new law is causing "a major culture change" for hoteliers and guests alike.

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Royal Caribbean's Record-Size Cruise Ship Nearly Ready

USA TODAY | Will Royal Caribbean's much-awaited new ship, Allure of the Seas, be ready for its late November unveiling? It's looking more and more like a sure thing.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Chairman and CEO Richard Fain—just back from touring the 5,400-passenger vessel at the shipyard in Finland where it is under construction—writes on his blog this week that he doesn't think he's ever seen a ship at this stage of construction so ready.

"Despite regular status reports and photographs from the newbuilding team, I was astounded by how far along she was," Fain says.

Fain goes on to hint things are going so well at the shipyard the company might even rethink inaugural activities planned for November.

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Airlines' a la Carte Services Offer Early Boarding, Legroom, More

USA Today |  You might be flying in coach, but increasingly, passengers in the back of the plane can grab a taste of premium comfort—from more legroom to better meals. But you'll pay a price.

Giving fliers in coach a taste of first class is the latest ripple in the à la carte pricing trend that has swept the airline industry. While many carriers started out charging passengers for essentials, such as checking bags, many now offer perks and privileges for a fee.

Don't want to be smashed into a middle seat in the back of the plane? Purchase a perch in the exit row. Afraid the overhead bins will be full before you board? Pay a few dollars and walk on the plane right behind those with elite status. A growing number of carriers offer in-flight Internet access. And many airlines are selling day passes to their lounges so passengers can relax in a space shut off from the more hectic boarding areas.

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Bumped From a Flight? You May Be Stuck

USA Today |  Lots of luck catching another flight if you've been bumped or miss a connection.

Commercial airlines in the USA have never been so full. Seven of them—Delta, American, United, Continental, US Airways, AirTran and Alaska—reported filling at least 87% of their seats in July. Even Southwest, always the industry's laggard in load factor, beat the industry's average over the previous six Julys of 84.6% by filling 84.9% of its seats.

That leaves precious few spots available if you've been bumped off a full flight or miss a connecting flight. And because airlines are scheduling fewer flights than five years ago, travelers could face long waits for a direct flight to their destinations or have to settle for circuitous reroutings to get there.

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Fierce Hurricane Season Predicted

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USA Today | Federal forecasters Thursday called for an "active" to "extremely active" hurricane season this year. They predict anywhere from 14 to 23 named storms to form in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

Of those named storms, eight to 14 should become hurricanes, including three to seven "major" hurricanes with wind speeds above 111 mph.

This prediction is the highest of any that federal forecasters have made since they began issuing seasonal hurricane forecasts in 1998.

Photo credit: iStock

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Chicago is Worst Tax City for Travelers

USA Today |  Travelers pay up to $101 in sales, hotel, rental car and other extra taxes aimed at them on an average three-day domestic trip, a study out today from a business travel group says.

The study, commissioned by the National Business Travel Association, says travelers pay not only local sales taxes on goods and services when they go to a U.S. city, but up to 144% more each day they rent a car, stay at a hotel and dine.

The association, which represents 5,000 corporate travel departments and suppliers, estimates that each of its members pays $3.51 million a year in state and local taxes that target travelers—excluding what they pay in taxes on airfares.

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Continental Tests 'Self-Boarding' at Houston Airport

USA Today |  Boarding a plane without an agent to inspect or take your pass has arrived in the USA.

Continental Airlines has confirmed it's testing the procedure at a gate at its hub in Houston Intercontinental. It's the first experiment at what's called "self-boarding" in the U.S.

In self-boarding, passengers — much like customers of the New York City subway—swipe their boarding passes at a kiosk reader at the gate. That opens a turnstile or door to the jet-bridge. Although an agent isn't there to take the pass, one is typically present to handle problems and other customer service tasks.

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