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Airlines Get the Gold Mine, Passengers Get the Shaft, in FAA Fiasco

If the government stopped collecting sales taxes, you'd expect prices to drop accordingly, right? Wrong way, Corrigan—at least when it comes to the airline industry. Last Friday, Congress failed to meet a deadline to fund the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which meant airlines were no longer authorized to collect a 7.5% federal excise tax and a minimum $3.50 segment tax that are built into published airfares. Instead of decreasing their airfares by an equivalent amount, most major airlines simply raised their fares in equal measure, giving the false impression that airfares remained the same. But some travelers who bought their tickets before Friday, when the tax was still included, are arguing they deserve a refund. And the chances of that happening are…?

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Digital Travel News: Resources for the Road

hotel room

1. Innovative book publisher Taschen is going digital with a new series of iPad apps. Among the first up: Yes Is More ($9.99), a comic book-cum-architectural manifesto from the Danish design group BIG.

2. Concerned about health on the road? The iMedjet app (free; iPhone/iPad; Android) stores health records, key contacts, and instructions on what to do in case of different medical emergencies.

3. For an insider’s experience of London, book a room with onefinestay.com (picture, above). The villa-rental agency specializes in posh pads (fancy an ambassador’s residence in Mayfair?) that come with concierge service.

4. Finally, a digital photo frame with a sense of style: the sleek, Android-based DIA Parrot by Nodesign ($500; parrot.com), which uses LCD panels to illuminate and enhance your pictures.

For more of our travel tech picks, see Best Travel Gadgets 2011.

Photo courtesy of onefinestay.com

Highest and Lowest Tourist Tax Burdened Cities in US

eTurbo News |  A list of the top five 2011 U.S. cities with the lowest and highest tourism taxes is out, showing cost differences in as much as 56% on average, according to an annual study by the Global Business Travel Association Foundation.

Listed as the five lowest tax burdened cities out of 50 destinations, three Florida cities topped the list with Fort Lauderdale in first, Fort Myers in second, and West Palm Beach in third.

All are in both general sales tax and travel-related services such as car rental, hotel and meals.
Following in fourth was Detroit, and Portland, Oregon, in fifth.

The five highest-tax imposing cities on travelers….

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DOT Will Delay Some New Passenger Rights Rules

The Department of Transportation announced yesterday that it will delay several new air passenger rights until January 24. The rules were approved in April and were to go into effect beginning August 23. The announcement came after criticism from numerous airline organizations who said their members would need more time to implement the changes. Several airlines complained specifically about a new "full-fare advertising" rule that would require airfares to include all mandatory taxes and fees. That particular rule would have gone into effect in October.

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Test Drive: Orbitz's New iPad App

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I'm sure we've all had the same experience at one time or the other: a spur-of-the-moment road trip cooked up with the intention of letting loose and seeing a bit of the gorgeous country we call home, the thrill of it largely contained in the fact that none of it was planned. And then the inevitable happens. Your eyes start to droop, signs start to blur in and out of focus, and your car starts weaving in its lane slightly. You need to find a place to stay for the night. Problem is, you don't know of any around.

Well, now there's an app for that.

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24 Small Towns May Lose Air Service

New York Times |  Rural America, already struggling to recover from the recession and the flight of its young people, is about to take another blow: the loss of its airline service.

That was underscored last week when Delta Air Lines announced that it “can no longer afford” to continue service at 24 small airports. The carrier says it is losing a total of $14 million a year on flights from places like Thief River Falls, a city of 8,600 in northwest Minnesota that fills only 12 percent of the seats, or Pierre, the capital of South Dakota, where Delta’s two daily flights are on average less than half full.

Nationally, all major airlines have been reducing and sometimes eliminating flights altogether in small cities, as the industry concentrates much of its service in 29 major hubs, which now account for 70 percent of all passenger traffic, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

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Hong Kong Debuts Sightseeing Smartcard

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Anyone who visits the world's great cities as a tourist knows it gets expensive making the rounds to all the must-hit sights and spots. Hong Kong is no exception, which is why we were happy to hear that its first smart sightseeing card launches there this month—also the first in China.

Created by iVenture, the company behind similar cards in Australia and Singapore, the "See Hong Kong Pass" ranges from $59-$115, and offers deep discounts at 15 top sights, hop-on hop-off bus access, and even dim sum lunches and a side trip to Maccau.

TODAY Show: T+L 2011 World's Best Winners!

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

What are the best hotels in the world? Travel + Leisure's features director, Nilou Motamed, shares the winners of this year's annual World's Best survey. Plus, our readers also weigh in on the best cities, cruises, famiy travel, and more. Find a complete list of award-winners here, and start planning your next vacation today!

Qantas, JAL to Launch Low-Cost Domestic Carrier in Japan

eTurbo News |  The Qantas Group and Japan Airlines are believed to be in advanced talks about starting a low-cost domestic carrier in Japan.

A decision is expected this year, although both sides say the proposal has yet to be finalised. JAL says its investigations have been wider than a tie-up with Qantas subsidiary Jetstar.

The talks were put under the spotlight yesterday after the Japanese business paper Nikkei said the venture would be capitalised at between Y=10 billion ($116 million) and Y=20bn and would start next year.

JAL and Jetstar would each hold a 30 per cent stake.

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Virgin America Passengers To Test Google Chromebooks In-Flight

TechCrunch |  Google just announced that it is teaming up with Virgin America to allow passengers to “test-fly” the search giant’s new Chromebook computers for free. Virgin passengers will be able to use the computers onboard their flight and at select airport gates from July 1 through September 30, 2011.

As an incentive, flyers who check out a Chromebook will receive a free WiFi session onboard Virgin America.

Virgin says that at airport gates in San Francisco, Chicago O’Hare, Boston and in Dallas-Fort Worth will include Google “Chrome Zone” lounges starting this week, where passengers can learn more about the Chromebook and check one out for their flight. Google is also partnering with the Ace Hotel in New York to offer Chromebooks in hotel guests’ rooms.

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