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Safety Board Says All Children on Flights Should Be in Seats

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New York Times
|  Airlines should no longer allow children under the age of 2 to fly in the laps of adults, according to a recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board sent to the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday. The group urged the F.A.A. to require that every occupant of an airplane, regardless of age, have a seat on all flights—commercial, charter and private planes. Photo credit: iStock.

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Fierce Hurricane Season Predicted

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USA Today | Federal forecasters Thursday called for an "active" to "extremely active" hurricane season this year. They predict anywhere from 14 to 23 named storms to form in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

Of those named storms, eight to 14 should become hurricanes, including three to seven "major" hurricanes with wind speeds above 111 mph.

This prediction is the highest of any that federal forecasters have made since they began issuing seasonal hurricane forecasts in 1998.

Photo credit: iStock

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Chicago is Worst Tax City for Travelers

USA Today |  Travelers pay up to $101 in sales, hotel, rental car and other extra taxes aimed at them on an average three-day domestic trip, a study out today from a business travel group says.

The study, commissioned by the National Business Travel Association, says travelers pay not only local sales taxes on goods and services when they go to a U.S. city, but up to 144% more each day they rent a car, stay at a hotel and dine.

The association, which represents 5,000 corporate travel departments and suppliers, estimates that each of its members pays $3.51 million a year in state and local taxes that target travelers—excluding what they pay in taxes on airfares.

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Spirit Air: Money Talks, and Talking Costs Money

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In its latest salvo against the traveling public, Spirit Airlines said it is considering a new surcharge—a fee to speak with Spirit airport employees. Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza told ABC News that it is considering such a fee in light of its airport kiosks that allow customers to buy tickets, check-in, and select or change seats without any human interaction. Baldanza told ABC News that flyers won’t see this new surcharge “any time soon.” What customers are seeing this week, however, is Spirit’s newest surcharge—a fee of up to $45 for carry-on bags placed in an overhead bin. That new fee began on Sunday, August 1.

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Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is also the international editor at Travel + Leisure.

USTA Launches Gulf Oil Spill Information Website

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Travel Pulse
GulfTravelUpdate.com, a portal site that centralizes links to up-to-date travel and recovery information on Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi—the states directly affected by the BP Oil Spill. GulfTravelUpdate.com includes links to traveler information from federal, state and local sources, plus oil spill news coverage and a map featuring the spill's impact on gulf shores from media partner USA Today. Deals and special offers for travel to the Gulf Coast region are also available.

“This site compiles a tremendous amount of information from states, destinations and agencies on the status of beaches and coastal communities along affected areas of the Gulf Coast," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. (...) Photo courtesy of GulfTravelUpdate.com.

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House Passes Aviation Safety Bill

MSNBC / Associated Press — The House voted Wednesday to toughen regulations on pilot training, qualifications and work schedules, a response to a fatal crash in upstate New York in February and other accidents involving regional airlines.

The bill, which was approved 409-11, would require all pilots that fly for a passenger-carrying airline to have an Air Transport Pilot certificate, effectively raising the number of flying hours an entry-level airline pilot must have from the current 250 hours to 1,500 hours.

The bill allows the FAA to credit course work at specific flight training schools toward the requirements for receiving an Air Transport certificate. The schools had expressed concern that would-be pilots would skip the schooling to concentrate on accumulating flying time.

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Domestic Airfares on the Rise

USA Today / Associated Press |  If you think airfares have been rising, it's not your imagination.

Figures just released from the government, while a bit dated, show that airline prices in the first three months of this year rose nearly 5% from a year earlier. And that doesn't include baggage fees and other extras that airlines charge.

But if you take a step back, air travel still looks like a bargain. Average fares are 25% lower than they were in 1999 after adjusting them for inflation, the government says.

The numbers were contained in a report issued Wednesday by the Transportation Department. The average domestic fare in the first quarter of 2010 rose to $328. Since 2001, the average price for the first quarter was higher only once — in 2008, when it hit $333.

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Continental Tests 'Self-Boarding' at Houston Airport

USA Today |  Boarding a plane without an agent to inspect or take your pass has arrived in the USA.

Continental Airlines has confirmed it's testing the procedure at a gate at its hub in Houston Intercontinental. It's the first experiment at what's called "self-boarding" in the U.S.

In self-boarding, passengers — much like customers of the New York City subway—swipe their boarding passes at a kiosk reader at the gate. That opens a turnstile or door to the jet-bridge. Although an agent isn't there to take the pass, one is typically present to handle problems and other customer service tasks.

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Annoyances Mount Over the Body Scanner

New York Times |  You may think of this as the summer of the heat wave. I prefer to think of it as the summer of the body scanner.

Transportation Security Administration buys these machines and installs them at more and more airport checkpoints, a lot of travelers are having their initial encounters with them. And while I hear from large numbers of readers who hate the idea, it’s becoming increasingly clear that body scanners will soon be a standard part of the air travel experience.

Today, 142 body scanners are in use at 41 airports, and the security administration says it will have more than 450 installed by the end of the year.

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Strict New Regulations Set for Cruise Ships

201007-b-cruiseillojpgTravel Agent Central |  A new U.S. bill aimed at increasing safety on cruise ships is set to become law. The Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act will require cruise lines to install peepholes on cabin doors, ensure rails are no lower than 42 inches and provide passengers with information on how to report crimes. The law means business: non-compliance can result in denial of entry into U.S. ports, civil penalties up to $50,000 per violation and criminal penalties up to $250,000 and/or one year’s imprisonment. (Image credit: Ryan Heshka)

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