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2010 Hurricane Season Begins Today

The Sun Sentinel |  They are nature's most powerful storms, able to wrench off roofs, blow out windows, rip down trees and otherwise ravage a large metropolitan area.

Major hurricanes—Categories 3, 4 and 5—produce sustained winds from 110 mph to as much as 185 mph and can generate storm surges more than 20 feet above normal tide levels.

With the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season starting today, experts say there is a significant chance one or more of these monsters will strike the U.S. coast over the next six months. The reason: It could be an extremely active year with up to 14 hurricanes, seven major, forecasters said.

"In general, more active seasons have more landfalling hurricanes.Therefore, the odds of a major hurricane making U.S. landfall increases," said Phil Klotzbach, the Colorado State University climatologist who develops seasonal outlooks with William Gray.

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When Two Airlines Tie the Knot

New York Times |  As soon as Continental and United announced their proposed merger, news media outlets began reporting on how the union might affect travelers—less competition and higher fares being the primary concerns.

But some airline experts see those worries as overblown. First, the two airlines had effectively moved in together before deciding to get married, aligning their flights through a code-share partnership and linking their frequent-flier programs, so they were more partners than rivals even before the merger was announced. More important, most analysts believe that airfares are likely to increase regardless of whether these carriers tie the knot.

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Airlines, Travelers Gird for Summer Delays as Volcano Plume Persists

Associated Press |  It’s been a month now, and Iceland’s volcano shows no sign it will stop belching ash across Europe anytime soon. The rolling eruptions threaten more havoc for summer vacation plans and higher costs for struggling airlines.

Although the global disruption of last month’s massive eruption has faded, smaller ash plumes snarled air services intermittently over the last week all the way to Turkey—more than 2,500 miles from the Eyjafjallajokul volcano.

Air-control authorities and geologists agree that the continent must brace indefinitely for rapid shutdowns of air services as computerized projections try to pinpoint where the ash clouds will float next at the whim of shifting winds.

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Hotels Connect the Dots Between Guests and Online Reviews

Washington Post |  Hotels want to know who you are. Especially if you're reviewing them anonymously.

An increasing number of image-conscious properties have begun connecting the dots between unbylined write-ups that appear on such popular travel sites as TripAdvisor or Yelp, and your personal information, such as your loyalty program preferences.

If you write a positive review, you might expect a reward from the hotel—a gift basket or a discount on your next stay. Pan a property, and you could get a concerned e-mail from the general manager asking you to reconsider your review. Or even a black mark against you in the chain's guest database.

John Baird, a lodging consultant in Jacksonville, Fla., says that hotels now use locations, dates and usernames that appear online to triangulate a guest's identity. Once they find a likely match, the review is added to a hotel's guest preference records, next to information such as frequent-guest number, newspaper choice and preferred room type.

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Google Moves Into Online Travel Business

USA TodayGoogle, the world's most popular search engine, is expanding its reach in the lucrative online travel business. In March, Google added hotel links to its Maps application, listing hotels with room rates available to some users.

Google also is reportedly in talks to pay $1 billion to acquire ITA Software, which develops fare-shopping software for online travel agencies, airlines and fare-search-only sites, such as Bing Travel and Kayak.

Incorporating fares into Google search results would keep customers more engaged in its applications while they plan for travel, a prospect that could unnerve other fare sites. Users would be able to type in their destination and travel dates, and see flights and prices.

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United, Continental Could Announce Merger Monday

USA TodayUnited and Continental airlines have reached the precipice of a merger agreement that their executives hope to announce on Monday, a source involved in the negotiations said Friday.

The announcement hinges on the boards of both airlines approving the deal, said the source, who is not authorized to speak for the airlines and requested anonymity. The board of United's parent, UAL, is to meet today. Continental's board is supposed to meet today and Sunday.

A union between Chicago-based United, the third-largest U.S. carrier, and No. 5 Continental, based in Houston, would create the biggest airline in the world. Based on passenger miles flown in 2009, the combination would be about 10% larger than the current world leader, Delta Air Lines.

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Lessons I Learned at the Boston Marathon

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Call me a 25-year-old crybaby, but I feel the only thing more exhausting than running a marathon is watching one. I just returned from the 114th-annual Boston Marathon, where my best friend in the world zipped along the requisite 26.2 miles (past the Ashland Clock Tower, Lake Cochituate, and Wellesley College girls offering runners smooches) at record speed. (That's three hours, 41 minutes, 13 seconds. Go Rachel Go!) And I got so tired searching for her gorgeous face among all those rolling past me in varying stages of elation and pain that I thought, “Never again! Never again will I sit on these sidelines without a box of Mike’s Pastry napoleons to keep me going!!”

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Is the iPad Fit for Travel?

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As part of an early-adaptor household that snagged an iPad the instant it hit shelves this month, I know it’s one thing to play Scrabble while you’re waiting on line for lattes at Starbucks, to burn through a few chapters of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter before bed, or to ogle and caress its sleek form in the privacy of one’s home, but how does this spring’s hottest must-have gadget fare on the road? For starters, at just 1.5 pounds it weighs far less than the average laptop, and airport security is not forcing owners to pull out their iPads for x-raying like they do computers, but there are some caveats (right now) to be sure.

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Cool Photo Gear: Kata Camera Bags

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I'm loving the photo bags and organizers from Kata lately. The founders of this company, who met while serving in the Israeli army, started making photo bags in 1992. Now they have a full line of photo and video gear that is light and ultra-protective.

My favorite is the Pro-Light FlyBy 74, which is a generous camera bag that doubles as a roll-aboard suitcase.  It has veritcal and horizontal handles, and a tripod holding option on the front. The inside is the best part: super modular, the interior panels are bright yellow, making it much easier to find your photo gear than it would be in a black-lined case.

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Europe Flights Take Off, But What About the Backlog?

The first flights to take off in a week may have left London's Heathrow Airport yesterday and many of Europe's airports may once again be open, but there are still thousands of people stranded around the world, unable to fly due to ash from Iceland's recent volcanic explosion.

If you're not one of the lucky fliers who happened to be flying Emirates Air (the airline went above and beyond and is paying for hotel stays and three meals a day for some 6,000 passengers stuck in Dubai!), chances are you're ready for this ordeal to be O-V-E-R. Now, the question us who gets dibs on some of the first flights out?  For details on who goes to the front of the check-in line, check out CNN's excellent Q&A today:


How are airlines prioritizing ticket allocation?
Other than a few special cases, most airlines are prioritizing those with pre-existing tickets for scheduled flights. In some cases, empty seats on these are being filled by customers with urgent travel needs. Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific says it is giving priority to unaccompanied minors and students heading back to the UK to sit exams. Singapore Airlines is fast tracking those with "special needs," the elderly and those with infants or young children. Rochelle Turner, head of vacation research for consumer watchdog Which?, says any prioritizing is at the discretion of individual flight operators. "The elderly, the sick, frequent flyers—it's entirely up to the airline who goes first."

Do I need to do anything if I have a ticket on a scheduled flight?
All airlines are advising customers to double check whether flights are going ahead before heading to airports. British Airways is even urging customers with tickets on scheduled departures to consider delaying their travel plans to free up space on planes to allow delayed passengers to travel. In most cases, passengers who hold tickets for a flight due to take off as scheduled should be fine. Says Turner, it is still advisable to call the airline to confirm or check-in online.

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Adrien Glover is the online deputy editor at Travel + Leisure.

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