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God of Death Arrives at Denver Airport

Remember that Bruce Willis/Ben Affleck ‘90s film Armageddon?  About heroic and crusty oil rig workers charged with blowing up an asteroid before it crashed to earth?  Cruelly, it was shown on a particularly turbulent flight I took across the Atlantic.  As my stomach lurched with every sudden drop in altitude and I watched actors struggle to land on a Texas-sized asteroid hurtling through space, I wondered just who had thought that film was a good fit with air travel.

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Such thoughts occurred again today as I read that the Denver Airport (DIA) has erected a 26-foot statue of Anubis, the jackal-headed god of death and the afterlife, outside the terminal.  The sculpture was erected last Wednesday to promote an exhibit on Egypt’s King Tut, Tutankhamun: The Golden King & the Great Pharaohs, which opens June 29 at the Denver Art Museum.

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Cute Overload: Hello Kitty Airport Gate

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On my way home from a recent trip to Taiwan, I found myself with a little bit of time to kill before boarding my plane at Taipei’s Taoyuan Airport. Knowing I had more than 14 hours to sit in a cramped airplane seat ahead of me, I did some exploring.

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easyJet Unveils Infrared Ash Detectors

Chicago Tribune (AP) |  Low-cost airline easyJet PLC unveiled plans Friday to test infrared technology's ability to detect volcanic ash clouds and urged other airlines to help map the ash risk across Europe's skies.

The company said the devices—which are placed on an aircraft's tail fin and can detect ash clouds within 60 miles (100 kilometers)—are the first of their kind, calling them "essentially a weather radar for ash."

The airline is spending 1 million pounds ($1.46 million) developing and testing the technology with aircraft manufacturer Airbus and hopes to roll out the devices in a dozen planes by the end of the year. The devices aim to prevent a repeat of the five-day shutdown of European airspace in April caused by an erupting Icelandic volcano that affected 10 million passengers worldwide.

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Airlines to Cough Up More to Bumped Passengers

CBS/AP | Giving up your airline seat may become a little less painful.

Federal officials are expected to announce this week a plan to raise the maximum amount that airlines must pay passengers who get bumped off an oversold flight, currently at $400 or $800 depending on how long a trip is delayed.

Bumpings rose in three of the past four years and jumped 10 percent to 762,422 in 2009, the highest total since 2002. They soared 17 percent in this year's first quarter.

The potential inconvenience is greater now, too. Airlines have cut back on flights and planes are more crowded, so bumped passengers could wait hours or even days to find alternate arrangements.

"It might not be hours, but days before you get to where you're going," Pauline Frommer, creator of Pauline Frommer Guidebooks, told CBS News correspondent White Johnson. "There simply aren't enough airplane seats out there for the number of people who want to fly."

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Just in Time for Father’s Day: A Private Jet With Viewing Platform

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The latest mod con in luxury private jets? An open-air viewing platform, perfect for watching wildlife, engaging in full-contact Parcheesi, or simply lounging with a postprandial sherry while the aircraft is parked overnight. (You didn’t really think you could stand on it while the plane was in flight, did you?!)

Here’s how it works: While the aircraft is on the ground, a massive side door opens up and serves as an awning. The platform, hidden in the fuselage, extends out to create a balcony for the deluxe living space within the plane.

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When Two Airlines Tie the Knot

New York Times |  As soon as Continental and United announced their proposed merger, news media outlets began reporting on how the union might affect travelers—less competition and higher fares being the primary concerns.

But some airline experts see those worries as overblown. First, the two airlines had effectively moved in together before deciding to get married, aligning their flights through a code-share partnership and linking their frequent-flier programs, so they were more partners than rivals even before the merger was announced. More important, most analysts believe that airfares are likely to increase regardless of whether these carriers tie the knot.

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Airlines, Travelers Gird for Summer Delays as Volcano Plume Persists

Associated Press |  It’s been a month now, and Iceland’s volcano shows no sign it will stop belching ash across Europe anytime soon. The rolling eruptions threaten more havoc for summer vacation plans and higher costs for struggling airlines.

Although the global disruption of last month’s massive eruption has faded, smaller ash plumes snarled air services intermittently over the last week all the way to Turkey—more than 2,500 miles from the Eyjafjallajokul volcano.

Air-control authorities and geologists agree that the continent must brace indefinitely for rapid shutdowns of air services as computerized projections try to pinpoint where the ash clouds will float next at the whim of shifting winds.

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Spirit Airlines Is At It Again

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Spirit Airlines, the Florida-based airline that will charge $45 to stow carry-ons in the overhead bin starting August 1, is plumbing new depths of customer annoyance by announcing today that it would begin placing ads for a toothbrush company on its lavatory mirrors.

The toothbrush company, which will get no additional publicity here, apparently believes Spirit’s media kit claim that the ads will get “100% saturation, with a targeted, captive audience that is actively engaged by ads for an average of three hours.”

It’s difficult not to snigger at the phrase “captive audience.”

Spirit, which recently installed cheap and uncomfortable “pre-reclined” seats on many of its aircraft so it could increase the passenger load, has sold advertising on barf bags, tray tables, bulkhead panels, beverage napkins, ticket envelopes and more. In years past it mandated flight attendants to wear aprons imprinted with the Bud Light logo.

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Fly JetBlue on Tuesday and Wednesday for $10!

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Missed Mother’s Day?  Fly home to Mom’s and kiss her in person for less than cost of a bouquet of peonies.

In another giddy gesture to celebrate their 10th anniversary, JetBlue is having a 2-day sale. If you can find a remaining seat on any JetBlue flight on Tuesday or Wednesday, you can book it for $10.   Just buy your tickets at www.jetblue.com/deals/ten-years/ by 11:59pm on Monday night and take a flyer!

Ann Shields is an online senior editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of JetBlue Airways.

United-Continental Deal: Birth of a Behemoth

New York TimesUnited Airlines and Continental Airlines on Monday announced a $3 billion merger that would create the world’s biggest airline.

The all-stock deal would form a coast-to-coast American behemoth with a leading presence in the top domestic markets, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, along with an extended network to Asia, Latin America and Europe.

The deal was completed in a remarkably short three weeks, and would give the airlines the muscle to fend off low-cost rivals at home and to take on foreign carriers abroad. United is buying Continental, and the combined company will keep the United name and be based in Chicago. It will, however, keep the Continental logo, livery and colors and maintain a large presence in Houston.

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