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Sole Mates, Seat Mates: Virgin Atlantic Offers Made-to-Order Shoes

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Put down that SkyMall, Bertram. Male passengers traveling Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic flights can indulge in something a little fancier than bed-side pet ramps or peephole spy cameras: The airline is offering custom shoe fittings from haute Finnish shoemaker the Left Shoe Company. Devote 20 minutes pre- or post-flight to having your foot scanned by a 3D digital scanner in the Clubhouse-the Virgin Atlantic lounge-at Heathrow and choose a style. Four weeks later, a courier will deliver your bespoke kicks. The soles are inscribed with your name, and if you choose, your Virgin Atlantic flight number and destination. The available shoe styles start at €225 ($310 at today's exchange rate), and roundtrip Upper Class fare on Virgin Atlantic runs around $10,000.

Won't taking your shoes off at the security line feel slightly less humbling when they're custom-fitted and inscribed with your name?

Ann Shields is Online Senior Editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo: Courtesy of the Left Shoe Company.

DOT: Drop in Flight Delays, Rise in Canceled Flights

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New Jersey Star Ledger |  By all accounts, the Federal Aviation Administration’s "tarmac rule" has dramatically reduced the number of passengers who are stuck inside an aircraft on the ground for three hours or more.

Violations of the rule, which went into effect last April, can cost airlines $27,500 per passenger, or $2.75 million for a planeload of 100 people going nowhere fast. In fact, there were just three cases nationwide of three-hour tarmac delays in December—compared with 34 the previous December, according to the federal Department of Transportation, the FAA’s parent agency.

But critics say an unintended consequence of the rule is becoming apparent and spoiling travel plans for a far greater number of would-be fliers.

A Star-Ledger analysis of federal DOT figures reveals airlines are simply canceling more flights, presumably to avoid idling on the tarmac and exposing themselves to the whopping fines. In fact, the cancellation rate at the nation’s major airports surged 24 percent during the eight months after the rule went into effect.

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Airline with Club Atmosphere to Serve Las Vegas

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CNN | Mood lighting, club music and pre-flight safety briefings from virtual celebrities: Gamblers may soon have a swanky new way to arrive in Las Vegas, Nevada.

LV Air, a new airline that hopes to start service this fall with four daily nonstop flights between the gaming capital and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, promises to bring a bit of Sin City fun and luxury on board.

"When you enter the aircraft, it will seem as if you're entering a club. ... It'll be a very festive atmosphere," said Sean Smith, LV Air's chief marketing officer, describing dark blue and purple lighting in coach class, and club music pulsating from the speakers of the chartered Boeing 767s.

Photo Courtesy of LV Air.


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Delta: SkyMiles Are Forever

CNN |  SkyMiles no longer expire, Delta Air Lines announced Tuesday.

The frequent flier perk system, which enables users to earn free plane tickets or in-flight upgrades, is the first among major U.S. airlines to preserve points indefinitely.

Before January 1, 2011, SkyMiles became invalid if no qualifying mileage activity, such as acquiring or redeeming miles, occurred for more than 24 months.

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FAA: One Billion Fliers a Year by 2021!

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CNN |  Feeling crowded at the airport and on your flights? Get ready to have even more company when flying.

Air travel in the United States is expected to more than double in the next 20 years, according to the Federal Aviation Administration's annual forecast released on Tuesday.

It also predicts U.S. airlines will carry 1 billion passengers a year by 2021, a milestone that will come two years earlier than previously thought. (To put that number into perspective, about 712 million passengers flew on domestic carriers in 2010.)

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Photo by Don Wilson/Courtesy of Port of Seattle.

Delta to Add "Economy Comfort" Seats

USA TodayDelta Air Lines will add a premium economy section to its international flights, charging non-elite fliers between $80 to $160 each way for "Economy Comfort" seats that come with extra legroom and more recline.

Delta and SkyTeam frequent-fliers at the Platinum and Diamond level can book the seats at no extra charge, while Gold-level frequent-fliers will have access to the seats at a 50% discount. Silver members can purchase the seats for a 25% discount.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says "passengers will get seats with up to four inches of extra legroom, beyond the roughly 31 inches of pitch in international economy. They also will get 50% more recline than regular international economy seats. Passengers in the new section … also will be able to board early and get free alcoholic beverages during the flight."

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Video: Dance Party at Rio's Airport

Here it is: your moment of Monday travel zen. Never mind that this video, which takes place at Aeroporto do Galeão in Rio de Janeiro, is a marketing ploy by TAP Airlines. Just enjoy. Air travel? This much fun? Maybe someday...

New Flight Limits Over Grand Canyon

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USA Today
|  In an attempt to restore natural peace and quiet to the Grand Canyon, the National Park Service has proposed limits on "flight-seeing" and other aircraft over the canyon.

The proposal raises height limits for aircraft flying over the area, suggests no-fly zones and calls for phasing in quieter aircraft.

Air tours currently carry about 400,000 passengers annually over the canyon. And while "they play an important role in visitor enjoyment … without more thoughtful management, air-tour flights can interfere with the enjoyment of visitors on the ground," the park service said in a statement. (Photo by Lenny Konieczski)

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Airlines and Travel Sites Tussle Over Booking Flights

2010-b-american-airlinesjpgUSA Today |  A fight between a major U.S. airline and some Web-based travel companies is having a ripple effect in the travel industry, as players take sides in a battle that could ultimately affect how fliers shop for tickets and find the best fares.

More than 125 of the nation's biggest travel organizations and agencies, including online travel giant Expedia, have formed a coalition that is taking aim at a new booking system, preferred by American Airlines, that challenges the way most major airlines make their fares available to the public.

American says that its new, direct link will better inform travelers of services it offers for a fee, such as priority boarding, and also pare the airline's costs. But the newly formed Open Allies for Airfare Transparency and other critics argue that bypassing the systems that pool fare information from multiple airlines will make it harder for the public to find the best deals, or even the best routes, to their destinations. (Photo courtesy of American Airlines)

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InterContinental Covers Guests' Airline Baggage Fees

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Nobody likes checked luggage fees, but let’s face it: they’re a part of air travel now. So if you’re one of those people who, like myself, find it difficult to restrict your vacation packing to the size of a carry-on, you just have to accept the fees as part of the price to pay for getting away. (And yes, I know what you're thinking. I work in travel. I should be able to rock the carry-on. In theory, I do know how. In practice, well...that's another story.)

However, if you book with any of the 4,500 InterContinental Hotel Group’s properties scattered across the world any time from now through April 30, 2011, the company will reimburse guests up to $100 per stay for their roundtrip baggage fees. For rebate details, take a look at the official IHG page.

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Joshua Pramis is an online associate editor and resident tech guru at Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter: @joshuapramis.

Photo © iStock.

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