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Air France and Lufthansa Pilots Strike: What You Need to Know

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Welcome to airline strike season in Europe. Air France canceled half of its flights today as pilots expressed their opposition to the airline's plan to shift focus to a lower-cost (and lower-paying) subsidiary. Thousands of travelers across Europe have been impacted—a number that will surely increase if the strikes continue through the week as planned.

And in Frankfurt, Lufthansa pilots declared an eight-hour strike set for Tuesday, which will disrupt the airline’s long-haul flights. In negotiations regarding Lufthansa’s early retirements packages, the pilots union has led strikes (at the budget subsidiary Germanwings) and walkouts since August.

Both airlines have worked proactively to minimize the strikes’ impact on travelers, rebooking with partner carriers and offering hotel-stays in the event that no alternative flight is found.

While strikes can throw a wrench in anyone’s travel plans, there are a few ways to lower your risks, as detailed by T+L’s Trip Doctor, Amy Farley. Here's what you need to know: 

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Southwest Reveals Bold New Look

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Domestic airlines have been upgrading right and left in recent months, from introducing premium economy seats (Hawaiian Airlines) to new-and-improved websites (Virgin America). This week, Southwest got in on the action, revealing top-to-bottom design updates that include a new logo, livery, app, and website.

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Nancy Novogrod: The Exit Interview

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Before we let longtime Travel + Leisure editor in chief Nancy Novogrod walk out the door to pursue new opportunities (including writing a book), we had a few questions for her. As you can imagine, after 21 years traversing the globe on behalf of the magazine, Nancy has some opinions about travel—how it has evolved, where it’s going, and what experiences and destinations rise to the top. Here, the Nancy Novogrod Exit Interview. 

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Cute Animals Help Passengers Relax on British Airways

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This month, nervous flyers and homesick cat and dog owners can tune into British Airways’ new, adorable, Paws & Relax channel.

The stream of cat and dog footage (think camera-collar documentaries and animated shorts) is perfect for entertaining young travelers, and for soothing anxious passengers during their fight.

Of course, who hasn't spent hours at their computer streaming cute cats and cuddly pups on YouTube?

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How Do Airlines Decide Who to Bump?

Passenger at Airline Customer Service Counter

Each carrier makes its own rules regarding who gets boarding priority when a flight is oversold or over capacity because of a change in aircraft. After looking for volunteers to give up their seats, some domestic carriers bump those who checked in last; others start with passengers in the lowest fare class. All of them give priority to people in special circumstances: those whose trips would be severely delayed, travelers with disabilities, unaccompanied minors, and (naturally) people in premier cabins or with elite loyalty-club status.

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: iStockphoto


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Air Passenger Fracas Serves Warning: Recline at Your Own Risk

Maybe you heard the story today from the AP. Male air passenger places a Knee Defender device on the seat back in front of him, preventing that seat from reclining. Female passenger in that seat objects. Flight attendant tells man to remove device, man refuses, woman complainant drenches the man with water. (Why oh why couldn’t it have been red wine?! Much better story that way.) Pilot diverts the Newark-Denver flight to Chicago, where the two offending parties are removed, but not arrested. We all know who is right and who is wrong in this tale. Right?

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Airplane Wi-Fi Just Got Better

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It's easier than ever to stay connected in the air. Early next year, Gogo—offered on nine North American carriers, including Alaska, American/US Airways, United, and Delta—will increase bandwidth to a whopping 70-plus megabits per second (mbps) on 800 planes. It's the difference between surfing the Web and streaming an HD movie. Also on tap: an app for texting in flight. JetBlue has launched Fly-Fi, a proprietary 20-plus-mbps service (free; $9 per hour for streaming video) on part of its fleet; all A320's will be equipped by early 2015. On the international front, OnAir is available on airlines ranging from All Nippon to Etihad; Singapore Airlines is the latest to sign on, with Wi-Fi on its A340's, A380's, and Boeing 777-300ER's ($10 for 10 MB, or $12 per hour). British Airways recently joined up with Inmarsat, which plans to roll out Europe's first ground-based (as opposed to satellite) 4G broadband network by the end of 2016. Speeds will be in excess of 70 mbps.

Photo: iStockPhoto

British Airways Launches 72-Hour Fare Hold

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Booking a flight but not quite ready to pull the trigger—and you’re worried the fare could go up the next day? We’re already big fans of Options Away, an app and website that allows you to lock in a specific airfare for up to 21 days by paying between $4 to $45. (Click here for a Q&A with the start-up’s co-founder Heidi Brown.) Now, as a result of customer feedback, British Airways has a similar option that lets flyers put flights on both BA and codeshare partner Iberia on hold for up to 72 hours for $10. Available now, the option shows up on the web page after you've selected your flights (look for the red box that says "Hold your flights and price"). Only one traveler’s name is required to hold flights, and seats can be held up to three weeks before departure. Note that some destinations are excluded; visit the website for the full list. 

Brooke Porter
Brooke Porter Katz is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.

Photo courtesy of John McKenna / Alamy

Aer Lingus Launches New Business Class

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Aer Lingus is the latest airline to introduce a new-and-improved business class cabin, launching in 2015. And from what we can tell, the upgrades—and the fact that passengers will get pre-clearance from U.S. customs at Dublin Airport—will make it a solid option for travel across the pond. Here’s what you can expect:

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How to Prepare for an Icelandic Eruption

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Remember the great Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010 that spewed ash across European airspace, stranding millions of travelers throughout the continent—and beyond? Iceland may be giving us a repeat performance, this time care of the Bárðarbunga volcano (that's Bardarbunga to English speakers), which has been increasing its seismic activity over the last week.

A few days ago, the agency that monitors the volcano raised the threat level to the aviation industry to ”orange,” the second-highest rating, putting airlines around the world on alert for possible flight disruptions due to ash clouds. Though it’s still unclear if the volcano will actually erupt, travelers planning to fly to or through northern Europe in the coming weeks should be prepared. Here’s what you need to know:

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