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The Southwest-AirTran Merger: What It Means to You (Maybe, Sorta, Not Really)

Southwest Air

Everyone's all worked up – one way or the other – about the news that low-fare Southwest Airlines is buying AirTran for $1.4 billion. Just in case you're not sure if this is good or bad news for travelers, I decided to round up some of the headlines and "expert" quotes that followed the announcement.

Yes, I was just as confused as you'll be.

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More (Delicious) Neapolitan Pizza Comes to NYC

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Last Thursday evening I was fortunate enough to attend a preview of Donatella Arpaia's latest restaurant venture. Donatella, an Italian restaurant with a big focus on authentic Neapolitan-style pizza, opens Friday, September 24, in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC. It's her first venture here below 50th Street; she also owns Mia Dona, a rustic Puglian trattoria; Anthos, high-end Greek; Kefi, a Greek taverna; and in Miami's Viceroy Hotel, Eos, for modern Greek cuisine.

Arpaia hosted the event and, beyond being super friendly, you could easily see the enthusiasm and dedication she has for this new spot. Her ingredients are beyond fresh; the techniques authentic; and chefs total experts. All of her pizzaioli—as well as Arpaia—were trained in Italy with pie whiz Enzo Coccia, who then came here to continue to oversee the project during its early stages.

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Bon Vivanta: Taj Hotels Launches a New Brand

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Five-star hospitality doesn't have to equal four-poster beds or stuffy white tablecloths set with five different forks and a "Jackets Required" policy.

In fact, hyper upscale Indian hotelier, Taj--of famed properties like Mumbai's Taj Mahal and Udaipur's Lake Palace--just unveiled their newest "upper upscale" brand. It's dubbed "Vivanta" to signify a kind of cultural sophistication and also a vivacious approach to experience and travel.

Though, in the last 18 months, three initial hotels in Bangalore, The Maldives and Goa already existed under the umbrella, 13 other properties have now come in from the rain and apparently six more are already in development.

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Boeing: Space Tourism Flights Possible by 2015

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USA Today | Boeing says it's ready to jump into the space-tourism market, announcing on Wednesday that will enter into a partnership to sell seats on rocket trips to the International Space Station.

"Now Boeing just has to build a spaceship," The Associated Press writes.

Boeing's just-announced partnership is with the space-tourism company Space Adventures. The Washington Post explains, saying the agreement is for the companies "to establish a space taxi system that will launch its passengers into low Earth orbit. Boeing has been developing a capsule and has years of experience building rockets, while Space Adventures has organized seven trips to the space station aboard the Russian spacecraft Soyuz. The obstacles remain high, but the two companies say they think they can begin their service by the end of 2015." Photo Credit: iStock

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Bundle Up! Luxe Resort Adopts "Lodge-ical" Pricing

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Phil Anderson, general manager of the Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid, New York, is swimming against the travel-industry current, but he thinks it's the right direction to go. While many airlines, hotels, and cruise lines are increasingly "unbundling" their prices by adding numerous surcharges and fees so they can advertise an artificially low base price, Anderson has recently implemented a new pricing policy that is nearly unheard-of: the price you're quoted is the price you pay.

"It's counter-intuitive compared to what everyone else seems to be doing," Anderson told me, "but if a guest thinks he's getting a rate of four hundred and fifty dollars, why should his total be five hundred and thirty-one? Why nickel-and-dime people?"

So in an experiment this past summer, Anderson began quoting all-in-one rates that include the room, the resort fee, state tax, and occupancy tax....

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Capri, Geneva, NY Most Expensive for Hotels as Prices Rise

201009-b-capri-3jpgReutersCapri, Geneva and New York top the list for the most expensive hotel rooms, according to a global survey that showed hotel rates rising for the first time in three years as the global economy picks up.

Hotel provider Hotels.com's bi-annual hotel price index, released on Tuesday, found that although average hotel room rates are at low levels seen six years ago, there are hints of a recovery. (...)

Overall, prices rose about 2 percent in the second quarter of 2010 from a year ago, the first increase since the end of 2007, as business travelers and tourists started packing their bags again and heading out. (Photo courtesy of Capri Tourism)

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Contest Watch: $100K for a Year Off, Maui Vaca, Australia, More

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With school in session and the autumn holidays just around the corner, this month’s Contest Watch is all about escaping obligation. Ikea wants you to take a whole year off to pursue philanthropic work, but for those just looking to avoid a mother-in-law, Turks + Caicos has a better alternative to Thanksgiving dinner—the islands' Conch Festival!

So start entering—before you get seated at the kid’s table.

Ikea’s Life Improvement Sabbatical Contest
Now – November 8th
The Swedish furniture company is giving one winner the opportunity to take a year off to pursue their passions (volunteering, starting a non-profit)—a prize worth $100,000. Entrants must submit their proposal to www.thelifeimprovementproject.com. Five finalists will be chosen by a panel of judges, and announced on December 13, 2010. The winner will be determined by public vote, and announced on January 31, 2011. The winner is not required to take a leave of absence from work but, come on, why wouldn’t you?

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Airfares from U.S. to Europe Much Higher than Vice Versa

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USA Today |  Americans flying to Europe this fall may pay hundreds of dollars more than their counterparts traveling the opposite way over the Atlantic.

Round-trip fares from several U.S. cities to European hot spots like Paris, London and Amsterdam are up to 66% higher than the price for trips originating overseas, says Tom Parsons, founder of Bestfares.com, who scouted fares from the last week of October through March 31.

"Between the same cities, (for the) same seats, same days of week ... one country gets an advantage over the other," says Parsons, who found similar pricing at most of the major carriers including Continental, Delta and United, as well as international airlines such as KLM. "Because we're Americans, we pay more." Photo credit: Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic.

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News Stories We Never Finished Reading

From the Telegraph, United Kingdom:

"Ryanair has won a court case against the Spanish 'screen scraping' website Atrapalo, but has been ordered to stop using the term 'bastards' to describe the company."

Is Your Pilot Too Tired To Fly?

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FAA rules on pilot fatigue have changed little since the heyday of the DC-3, despite the increased strains on pilots due to terrorism, advanced technology, and the greater potential for jet lag when crossing multiple time zones in a relatively short period. In his Fast Lane blog this morning, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said his department would propose new rules today requiring that pilots have an opportunity for at least nine hours of rest before a flight (an hour longer than current rules), at least 30 consecutive hours off duty every week (a 25 percent increase), and new weekly and monthly duty limits.

Expect some backlash from the airline industry.

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