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Airlines and Travel Sites Tussle Over Booking Flights

2010-b-american-airlinesjpgUSA Today |  A fight between a major U.S. airline and some Web-based travel companies is having a ripple effect in the travel industry, as players take sides in a battle that could ultimately affect how fliers shop for tickets and find the best fares.

More than 125 of the nation's biggest travel organizations and agencies, including online travel giant Expedia, have formed a coalition that is taking aim at a new booking system, preferred by American Airlines, that challenges the way most major airlines make their fares available to the public.

American says that its new, direct link will better inform travelers of services it offers for a fee, such as priority boarding, and also pare the airline's costs. But the newly formed Open Allies for Airfare Transparency and other critics argue that bypassing the systems that pool fare information from multiple airlines will make it harder for the public to find the best deals, or even the best routes, to their destinations. (Photo courtesy of American Airlines)

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TSA Shuts Door on Private Airport Screening

Washington (CNN) | A program that allows airports to replace government screeners with private screeners is being brought to a standstill, just a month after the Transportation Security Administration said it was "neutral" on the program.

TSA chief John Pistole said Friday he has decided not to expand the program beyond the current 16 airports, saying he does not see any advantage to it.

Though little known, the Screening Partnership Program allowed airports to replace government screeners with private contractors who wear TSA-like uniforms, meet TSA standards and work under TSA oversight. Among the airports that have "opted out" of government screening are San Francisco and Kansas City.

The push to "opt out" gained attention in December amid the fury over the TSA's enhanced pat downs, which some travelers called intrusive.

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Trend Alert: Hotels Implementing the Latest Tech Devices

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I was discussing with my colleagues earlier today my relative inability to unplug myself from the world, no matter where I am. So it’s fitting that, shortly after this discussion, I received an e-mail from the Lanesborough in London, telling me about their newest guest service: the installation of Mac minis in each of the hotel’s 95 guestrooms. (Which, when you think about it, is an interesting contrast: the sleek, stylish white devices surrounded by the Georgian-style décor of the hotel.)

This additional resource lets guests access more/better TV and movie choices, as well as a place to plug in their own personal iPods, iPhones, and iPads—even personal digital cameras and jump drives, if need be. (Not to mention, access to the Internet and programs standard on any new Mac, like iLife.)

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InterContinental Covers Guests' Airline Baggage Fees

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Nobody likes checked luggage fees, but let’s face it: they’re a part of air travel now. So if you’re one of those people who, like myself, find it difficult to restrict your vacation packing to the size of a carry-on, you just have to accept the fees as part of the price to pay for getting away. (And yes, I know what you're thinking. I work in travel. I should be able to rock the carry-on. In theory, I do know how. In practice, well...that's another story.)

However, if you book with any of the 4,500 InterContinental Hotel Group’s properties scattered across the world any time from now through April 30, 2011, the company will reimburse guests up to $100 per stay for their roundtrip baggage fees. For rebate details, take a look at the official IHG page.

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Joshua Pramis is an online associate editor and resident tech guru at Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter: @joshuapramis.

Photo © iStock.

Best New E-Readers From CES 2011

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We all know about the iPad and Kindle. Whether on the TV, the side of a bus, or a billboard, you can hardly turn a corner nowadays without seeing an ad for the game-changing devices. They’re everywhere. And while I’m certainly not anti-iPad/Kindle (I absolutely love them), I think it’s important for any traveler to know about and consider all available options.

That being said, there were a truckload of tablets revealed at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (more than 80!), so I wanted to share a few that I’m most excited about:

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Cool and Clever: Virgin Mobile's MiFi 2200

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I'm skeptical of mobile internet gadgets that promise anything more than a snail's-pace speed. But Virgin Mobile's MiFi 2200 Mobile Hotspot surprised me. In random places around New York City (er, that is, random bars in Brooklyn), the slim, tiny device kept me connected via its zippy 3G network.

It nearly made me regret buying the more expensive 3G-enabled iPad for my wife for Christmas. There's a compelling argument for buying the cheaper iPad and pairing it with a mobile WiFi hotspot (several are on the market). With Virgin's MiFi, up to five devices can connect to the same local WiFi network. Of course, that means five devices then compete for the already-modest signal.

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The T+L 500 iPad Edition Launches Today!


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Want an in-depth look at the top 500 hotels around the world, as chosen by you, T+L readers? Then look no further than the App store now. Download the FREE T+L 500 digital edition for your iPad today!

Pinpoint where to stay around the globe, find insider tips, rooms to book, exclusive videos, and much more! It’s your favorite places plus T+L’s hotel expertise.

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Delta, American Airlines Pull Fares Off Some Travel Sites

USA Today |  Travelers wanting to book a flight online will find fewer options now that two of the nation's biggest airlines have stripped their fares from some travel sites.

Those looking to fly on American can no longer book trips on Orbitz as of Dec. 21, while Delta stopped allowing three websites — CheapOAir.com, OneTravel.com, and BookIt.com — to list its flights after Dec. 17.

It's a move that more airlines may follow in an effort to cut costs, promote their brand and increase their ability to sell aspects of the travel experience that bolster the bottom line, some travel experts say. But some industry observers worry that the winnowing of booking outlets could ultimately make it harder for consumers to find the best deal.

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Everything Changes, for the Better, at Beverly Hills' Test Kitchen

Test Kitchen

Q: What’s the first rule of Test Kitchen?

A: The chefs make—and break—the rules of Test Kitchen.

At the experimental eatery on the southern edge of Beverly Hills, where a rotating cast of L.A.’s finest previews new menus and tries out specialty dishes, nothing stays the same except the location.

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Airline to Little Guy: Stop Telling Passengers How to Avoid Luggage Fees

If you could pack for a vacation without using a suitcase—and thus avoid a $50 roundtrip airline surcharge—wouldn't you want to know about it? Of course you would. So why is Delta's inflight magazine, Delta Sky, refusing to accept this ad from SeV/ScotteVest?

SeV Rejected Delta Magazine Ad

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