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CheapTickets Loyalty Program: $75 Back on Any Flight

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The OTA wars rage on. Last week, CheapTickets.com launched a loyalty program so worthwhile, we had to do a double take. The proposition: sign up for free at checkout, and you’ll automatically get money back on each booking—the rewards are paid out in the form of credits that can be applied to your next transaction. What you get: $50 back on any flight you book on the website, $75 for any flight booked on mobile, $25 for any hotel booked online, and $50 for hotel bookings on mobile. Unlike almost every other OTA, CheapTickets puts the emphasis on unbundled bookings—the only non-eligible purchases are package deals. And there’s no minimum spend, either, so a $150 ticket from New York to Nantucket would remain eligible for a $75 kickback if booked on mobile. This makes CheapTickets the second OTA to incentivize in-app bookings—Orbitz similarly offers roughly twice the rewards points for bookings made by smartphone.

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Say Hello to the Bio-Dome Airport

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First impressions of a new country are inevitably colored by the airport you arrive in -- landing in JFK feels hugely different from, say, Denver International. Which is why Singapore's Changi Airport, one of the busiest in the world, has decided to raise the bar with a $1.5 billion facility expansion. 

SEE MORE AT THRILLIST

Photo courtesy of Safdie Architects.

Improve Your Dating Life While You Travel

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If dating at ground level has proved difficult, perhaps it’s time to set your relationship sights a bit higher. About 30,000 feet higher.

Like your mother, airlines and social entrepreneurs have taken an interest in your love life.  But thanks to social media, a handful of tech tools, and a high-security environment with few exits, they may actually be able to help you.  

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FAA and Europe Ease Flight Restrictions to Israel

Sort of good news for Israel: the FAA has lifted its 36-hour ban on flights into Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport and the European Aviation Safety Agency, which had previously issued a recommendation for carriers to avoid the area, is now only cautioning national aviation authorities to “base their decisions [on whether to allow carriers to fly there]…on thorough risk assessments.”

All the major U.S. carriers have cancelled today's scheduled arrivals into Tel Aviv, though their arrivals for tomorrow are still set to depart. Lufthansa, however, is suspending flights through today and tomorrow—a prohibition that applies to Lufthansa, Germanwings, Austrian Airlines, Swiss, and Brussels Airlines. The carrier issued the following statement: “Lufthansa acknowledges the considerable efforts made by Israel to provide the best possible protection for Ben Gurion Airport with the ‘Iron Dome’ shield. As soon as this protection can be verifiably guaranteed, we will resume flight operations.”

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TransAsia Flight Crashes; 51 Passengers Feared Dead

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It’s been a terrible week in aviation. This morning, reports confirm that at least 51 passengers are feared dead following an accident on regional Taiwanese TransAsia flight GE222, from Kaohsiung to Magong. The short, 35-minute flight was stymied by extreme weather on its course and crashed after a failed attempt to land; the wreckage has been found near the village of Xicun, where the plane is said to have gone up in flames. 54 passengers, including four children, were on board, along with four crew members—all of whom are currently thought to have suffered injuries or fatalities from the crash.

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FAA Suspends US Flights into Tel Aviv

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After news of a rocket attack near Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport, the FAA is prohibiting all U.S. airlines from flying into or out of the country's main international airport for 24 hours. The Earlier today, Delta diverted its once-daily flight between New York JFK and Tel Aviv to Paris instead. US Airways, meanwhile, canceled its Philadelphia to Ben Gurion service before the plane departed. United Airlines canceled both of its Newark-Tel Aviv flights for Tuesday. The U.S. Department of State has also issued a new Travel Warning for Israel, cautioning U.S. citizens to consider deferring non-essential travel to the country.

This comes less than a week after a missile shot down Malaysia Airways flight 17 over the Ukraine, killing all 290 passengers and crewmembers aboard. Questions remain as to whether the airspace where the plane was flying should have been subject to restrictions given the growing ground conflict below. American carriers are obviously now approaching the conflict in Israel with an abundance of caution. This will be appreciated by many passengers, but could be devastating for Israel’s air connectivity.

UPDATE 7/23, 12:50 PM: In a new release, the FAA is extending its ban over Tel Aviv-bound flights for at least another 24 hours. Some airlines, such as British Airways and El Al, are continuing their normal operations. In a similar move, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceana, sister cruise lines, are modifying itineraries to avoid stops in Haifa, Israel's northern port town.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@timeinc.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

U.S. Citizens Can Now Apply for the APEC Business Travel Card

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Big news for business travelers: For the first time since being introduced in 1997, the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC)—which provides pre-clearance and expedited immigration processing at airports and seaports in every APEC country—is accepting applications for U.S. citizens.

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Gary Shteyngart's Misadventures in Travel

Air Travel

When I was told I was flying to an Indian literary festival via Kuwait Airways, I was ready to arrive in style. Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways—the region is known for its luxurious, pampered version of air travel. Perhaps Kuwait Airways would have a new Airbus A380 with an onboard lounge? High-thread-count bathrobes? Personal air butlers? In any case, I hoped the wine menu would have a nice dry Riesling to help me ease into a different climate, and, heck, some free spa products would be nice.

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Malaysia Airlines Flight Shot Down in Ukraine

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Breaking, horrifying news coming out of Europe today: a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 came down earlier today en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur while flying through Ukrainian airspace. U.S. intelligence officials, according to the Wall Street Journal and other news outlets, are saying that the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was carrying 283 passengers and 15 crew members; three of the passengers were infants. There are no survivors.

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Print-At-Home Bag Tags Now Available From First Gulf Carrier

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Add Qatar Airwaysprint-at-home luggage tags to the growing list of ways you can shorten your travel to-do list before even arriving at the airport, (flight check-in and security clearance included) and getting out of Doha is now as easy as finding your gate and browsing the duty-free emporium.

The official carrier for Qatar is now offering its unique service, called My Q-Tags, to passengers departing the new Hamad International Airport to 103 destinations. Unfortunately, there are no domestic stops on that list at this time due to TSA regulations.

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