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TransAsia Flight Crashes; 51 Passengers Feared Dead

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It’s been a terrible week in aviation. This morning, reports confirm that at least 51 passengers are feared dead following an accident on regional Taiwanese TransAsia flight GE222, from Kaohsiung to Magong. The short, 35-minute flight was stymied by extreme weather on its course and crashed after a failed attempt to land; the wreckage has been found near the village of Xicun, where the plane is said to have gone up in flames. 54 passengers, including four children, were on board, along with four crew members—all of whom are currently thought to have suffered injuries or fatalities from the crash.

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FAA Suspends US Flights into Tel Aviv

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After news of a rocket attack near Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport, the FAA is prohibiting all U.S. airlines from flying into or out of the country's main international airport for 24 hours. The Earlier today, Delta diverted its once-daily flight between New York JFK and Tel Aviv to Paris instead. US Airways, meanwhile, canceled its Philadelphia to Ben Gurion service before the plane departed. United Airlines canceled both of its Newark-Tel Aviv flights for Tuesday. The U.S. Department of State has also issued a new Travel Warning for Israel, cautioning U.S. citizens to consider deferring non-essential travel to the country.

This comes less than a week after a missile shot down Malaysia Airways flight 17 over the Ukraine, killing all 290 passengers and crewmembers aboard. Questions remain as to whether the airspace where the plane was flying should have been subject to restrictions given the growing ground conflict below. American carriers are obviously now approaching the conflict in Israel with an abundance of caution. This will be appreciated by many passengers, but could be devastating for Israel’s air connectivity.

UPDATE 7/23, 12:50 PM: In a new release, the FAA is extending its ban over Tel Aviv-bound flights for at least another 24 hours. Some airlines, such as British Airways and El Al, are continuing their normal operations. In a similar move, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceana, sister cruise lines, are modifying itineraries to avoid stops in Haifa, Israel's northern port town.

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 courtesy of iStockphoto

Of Course Dubai is Building the World's First Temperature-Controlled City

Dubai is making headlines again, announcing plans to construct an indoor city that will be 100 percent temperature-controlled.

An official statement from investment company Dubai Holding, Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid's latest project will be called the Mall of the World. Yet with 20,000 hotel rooms in the pipeline, it's far from the average shopping complex.

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New Small-Ship Cruise Line Launches

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Last month marked the debut voyage of Pearl Seas Cruises, a new small-ship luxury operator that’s offering itineraries through the Canadian Maritimes, the Great Lakes, and the St. Lawrence Seaway, with Caribbean journeys starting in 2015. A sister company to American Cruise Lines, it currently has one vessel: the 335-foot-long, 210-passenger Pearl Mist, complete with six decks and a balcony on each of the 108 cabins. (There are plans to add another ship in the future.)

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Kimpton Introduces Progressive New Karma Rewards

Just as airline loyalty programs are making it harder to cash in on rewards, hotels are upping the ante, letting guests earn points for tweets and social media interactions—not just night stays. The latest to join the nascent trend is Kimpton, who today announces a new loyalty program to replace InTouch. The name, Karma, says it all—the more love you give Kimpton, the more love comes back to you. Here’s how it works:

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Airbnb Redesign Brings Hosts Center Stage

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In a live broadcast this morning, Airbnb cofounders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nate Blecharczyk announced a major site redesign for the San Francisco-based company. Over 13,000 Airbnb users tuned in from 78 countries to the invitation-only event, and T+L spoke to company Product Lead Justin Santamaria for a sneak peek at the new look.

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Print-At-Home Bag Tags Now Available From First Gulf Carrier

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Add Qatar Airwaysprint-at-home luggage tags to the growing list of ways you can shorten your travel to-do list before even arriving at the airport, (flight check-in and security clearance included) and getting out of Doha is now as easy as finding your gate and browsing the duty-free emporium.

The official carrier for Qatar is now offering its unique service, called My Q-Tags, to passengers departing the new Hamad International Airport to 103 destinations. Unfortunately, there are no domestic stops on that list at this time due to TSA regulations.

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Seabourn Announces Alliance With UNESCO

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Seabourn, the luxury, small-ship cruise line, recently announced an alliance with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to help protect as well as promote World Heritage.

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Expedia Refreshes Loyalty Program

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With airlines devaluing their loyalty programs left and right, the door is wide open for OTAs to benefit—and we’ve certainly seen them try. Orbitz has recently introduced a rewards system (enhanced by their credit card) that offers instant cash back on every purchase—as much as ten percent on certain purchases. Hotels.com offers a free night for every ten you book. And now Expediais jumping back into the game, with a refreshed loyalty program that aims to compete. But does it? Here are the basics you need to know.

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Carnival Cruise Lines to Ban Balcony Smoking

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The "fun ships" are becoming healthier too: Carnival Cruise Lines announced this week that, starting October 9th, it will ban smoking on stateroom balconies, joining an ever growing fleet of companies restricting where guests can light up.

Cigarettes will still be permitted in designated areas—such as certain nightclubs, casino areas, and several outdoor decks.  Why the new restriction? According to Carnival’s official statement, the shift comes in response to the “preferences of a majority of our guests.” It also brings Carnival in line with its sister companies Cunard and P&O, which updated their policies last August. Other brands owned by the Carnival Corporation, such as Seabourn and Holland America, still permit balcony smoking.

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