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New Eye Tracking Technology May Soon Replace Border Patrol in Airports

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Biometrics have been hot at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, with everything from brain wave monitoring headbands that train you to de-stress to mobile wallet alternatives activated by touch. But the one innovation that’s caught our eye will literally catch yours, too, when you see it deployed in airports and airlines in the not-so-distant future. Eye trackers zoom in on your visual movement, letting you control things literally by looking around—imagine selecting options on your TV by simply affixing your gaze to them, and you’ve got the right idea.

EyeTech, the leader in eye tracking technology, is bringing them to the travel world in partnership with in-flight entertainment company Thales and the University of Arizona.

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American Airlines Launches Roomy New Airbus

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The battle for transcontinental business travelers got a lot more heated this week with the launch of American Airlines's new A321 jet on flights between New York and Los Angeles. (Come March, the plane will make its debut on New York-San Francisco routes.) The new aircraft—the only three-class plane making the transcontinental trip—takes American's commitment to front-of-the-plane fliers to new heights.

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Frequent-Flier Miles Devalued

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I’m thinking of getting out of the frequent-flier-mile game. It’s just not worth it anymore.

No, I won’t completely abandon it. There’s still plenty of value in earning miles for flights, gaining points for hotel stays, and remaining loyal to one brand.

But the mileage credit card frenzy? It isn’t worth it anymore.

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Kobe vs. Messi Make a Hilarious Comeback in Turkish Airlines' Latest Video

Turkish Airlines loves taking the stage for viral videos. Last year, its commercial featuring Kobe Bryant trying to outdo Barcelona soccer player Lionel Messi scored big on YouTube (over 106 million page views and counting). The hilarious campaign also earned them a T+L SMITTY award for Best Overall Use of Social Media in the global airline category.

Now, Turkish Airlines is attempting to recreate the magic with their latest video, once again featuring Bryant and Messi in a face-off, quite literally. In “The Selfie Shootout” the two athletes send pictures of themselves while traveling the globe (walking the Great Wall of China; scuba diving in the Maldives) to one another—the takeaway being that Turkish Airlines can help “widen your world.” With a video this funny, we can’t disagree.

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

How to Maximize Your Miles and Points

Maximize Your Miles and Points

Frequent-flier miles and hotel points are perks of life on the road—currencies that are supposed to make it all worthwhile. A string of stays at cookie-cutter convention hotels and side-of-the-road motels adds up to a free tropical family vacation at a jaw-dropping resort.

That’s the promise, at least.

Most frequent travelers know the ins and outs of these programs well. Some people even become obsessed with their mileage balance. But even the best pro can learn something new. Here are my favorite tips for some of the more obscure ways to earn and redeem miles. Feel free to add your own in the comments section below.

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How to Survive a Flight Delay

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How do you travel better? We asked a team of experts in a recent Twitter Chat for their rules of the road, which we’re revealing in a series of blog posts. With Christmas being one of the biggest travel days of the year, we wanted to know the first thing our panel does when their flight’s delayed (don’t worry, it won’t happen to you!).

Our T+L Trip Doctor (@TLTripDoctor) is responsible by checking @flightstats to see options for getting on another flight. Well, at least she starts out that way…

In the end, there was an overwhelming consensus by our panelists and chat participants. Digital and Brand Marketer, Melanie Nayer (@chic_travel) and T+L’s Rich Beattie (@richbeattie), Brooke Porter (@brookeporter1), Peter Frank (@pfrank1), and Shane Mitchell (@shanegoesforth) all seem to agree—find the nearest bar!

Follow @travlandleisure on Twitter and #TL_Chat for more expert tips.

Gabrielle Blitz is associate social media editor at Travel + Leisure

Hemingway Bar Takes to the Skies With the Ritz Paris and Air France

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Guests of the Hotel Ritz Paris are still waiting to enjoy a drink at the renovated Hemingway Bar—a two-year plus makeover is scheduled to last until the end of 2014. But a unique partnership with Air France is giving impatient fans of the watering hole something to look forward to. “Bar Hemingway in the Sky,” will feature head bartender of Hemingway, Colin Field, pouring his signature cocktails at 30,000 feet. Field’s first airborne drink was concocted this November 19th between Paris and New York, and a schedule for the New Year is soon to follow. Destinations will include major hubs across Asia (Hong Kong; Shanghai; Seoul; Singapore), Europe (Moscow) and South America (Sao Paulo). Of course, this high-end poison comes with a price: only those seated in La Première or Business Class will be able to sip on Field’s creations—but we wouldn’t expect anything less of the Hemingway’s infamous crowd.

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

Photo courtesy of Ritz Paris

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

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