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American Airlines' Plusgrade Program Lets Fliers Bid on Upgrades

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How much would you pay to upgrade on your next flight? That’s what American Airlines is finding out, now that they’ve launched their trial Plusgrade program.

“It’s simple,” their website promises. Six days before a flight, travelers can check to see if an upgrade is available (currently, the test is only being conducted in 13 undisclosed markets). If there’s a seat open in the next-highest class, flyers are encouraged to name their price.

If accepted, the upgrade will include priority check-in, boarding, and baggage, and complimentary food and beverage service.

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JetBlue’s Super Fast Wi-Fi Arrives at Last… For Free!

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Finally, the day that travel-obsessives have been waiting for is here: JetBlue’s new in-flight Wi-Fi, the product of endless chatter for months on end, is finally making its debut. This morning, a beta version of Fly-Fi (Simply Surf, as they’re calling it) was made available on three inaugural flights, indicating a slow launch for the carrier.

Morgan Johnston, JetBlue’s manager of corporate communication, says the airline will be bringing connectivity to five planes by end of year, and 140 more throughout 2014. But compensating for the slow roll out is super-fast service, thanks to a unique high-speed satellite that’s unrivalled among other airlines. An extra perk? Simply Surf will be free for the first six months, with an intention to make complimentary service available on an ongoing basis.

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Skyscanner Launches Soccer Flight Finder for 2014 World Cup

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Skyscanner already helps travelers compare flight prices for the best deals, but they’ll be focusing on the sports-crazed in 2014. Just as soccer fans around the globe are gearing up for next year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Skyscanner has launched their Soccer Flight Finder. The search engine compares outbound flights from each of the 32 participating countries to Brazil, as well as internal flights so that fans can follow their team directly to the field. Simply select which of the eight groups your team is placed in, and Skyscanner lets you search for free across web and mobile devices, in 30 different languages. Hotel and car rental comparisons let spectators further plan their visit to Latin America's largest country—all the more reason to stand and cheer (or shout) during the high-energy tournament.

Maria PedoneMaria Pedone is on the digital team at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @mariapedestrian.

Photo credit: Skyscanner

Global Entry: How to Make the Most of It

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If you fly three or four times a year and don’t have Global Entry, you’re crazy.

I know that’s a bold statement—and I have no way of actually judging your mental capacities—but give me a moment to explain why it’s an essential tool for any traveler, even those staying within the country.

Global Entry is a Customs and Border Protection program that, after a background check, allows travelers to skip lines at immigration and customs, using a kiosk to quickly reenter the country. The online application process takes a bit of time, and a subsequent in-person interview is required.

Once complete, though, you’ll not only laugh at long immigration lines but also race through airport security. That’s because the TSA considers Global Entry members “trusted travelers” and automatically includes them in the affiliated PreCheck program. And entry into that program is priceless.

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American + US Airways Merger Is Official: Say Hello To The World’s Largest Airline

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It’s been almost a year since travel behemoths American Airlines and US Airways first announced their plan to merge into the world’s largest airline. This morning, after months of negotiations and several concessions from both parties, the market finally opened with AAL shares on NASDAQ, representing the financial future of the new, officially approved American Airlines Group, Inc.

The $11 billion dollar deal salvaged a struggling American Airlines from bankruptcy, but required both airlines to surrender major gate slots across the country—more than one hundred total—at hubs that include Washington's Reagan and New York's LaGuardia airports.

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How Far in Advance Should You Book Airline Tickets?

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Wondering when you should book your flights for 2014? Finding the lowest fares means hitting the booking window at just the right time. We asked KAYAK to crunch the numbers for airfares around the world. Here's a look.

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.

TSA's Precheck Program Opens to the Public

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The Transportation Security Administration (a.k.a. TSA) is opening its first Precheck enrollment center, at the Indianapolis International Airport today. Until now, PreCheck has been available only to loyalty-program members of the TSA's partner airlines and people enrolled in one of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Trusted Traveler programs, such as Global Entry. Today marks the first time any traveler, regardless of frequent-flier status, can sign up to get expedited security privileges. All you need is $85 (which covers five years), proof of citizenship (though not necessarily a passport), and a little extra time at the airport. The TSA plans to roll out an additional 300 such centers by spring 2014—with the next ones coming to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

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 credit: iStockphoto

Is it Rude to ask Someone to Quiet a Child on a Plane?

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A: If the child is an infant, try to be sympathetic. Intervening won’t help, but some earplugs might. When an older child is misbehaving (kicking the back of your seat, for example), then go ahead. Usually, talking directly to the parent—or even the child—will do the trick. If the problem persists, you should involve a flight attendant to keep the situation from escalating.

37: The percentage of passengers who would prefer to sit next to a smelly adult than a crying baby.

Source: Harris Interactive

Melanie Lieberman is the Editorial Projects Assistant and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow her on twitter at @LittleWordBites.

Illustration © Images.com/Corbis

TSA Has Over $500,000 in Forgotten Pocket Change from 2012

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In fiscal 2012, travelers left $531,000 in pennies, nickels, and dimes at airport security checkpoints, according the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Nearly 95% of the loose change collected came from domestic flights, with $22,000 coming from LAX alone. Altogether, the TSA has amassed over $2 million in the last five years.

What is the TSA planning on doing with all the money?

Currently it sits mostly untouched in an “aviation security fund,” but Florida representative Jeff Miller last week issued a committee report recommending the unused coins go toward upgraded travel amenities for members of the U.S. military and their families while traveling.

Congress is set to vote later this week on Miller's bill.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

FCC Gets On Board With In-Flight Phone Calls

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The days of shutting down cell phones from takeoff to landing may soon be behind us. Next month, the Federal Communications Commission will address the proposal to lift the ban on in-flight phone use, which they call “outdated” and “restrictive.”

Now that long-standing safety concerns have been debunked, the FCC is looking to join France, the UAE, Singapore, and a number of other countries already allowing in-flight calls. This comes on the heels of the FAA’s recent decision to drop restrictions on other personal electronics last month.

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