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Summer Airfare Sales Return

USA Today |  Airlines are rolling out the summer travel bargains as they battle for recession-weary passengers who are slowly returning to the air.

AirTran and Southwest set off the latest flurry with sales that began Monday and were soon matched by American, Delta, US Airways and Continental, says Rick Seaney, CEO of Farecompare.com. It's the fourth round of sales in a month.

But while the sales are coming fast, you may miss out if you wait for the last-minute bargains that travelers got in the depths of the recession.

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Spirit Airlines To Charge for Carry-Ons

201004-b-istockjpgSpirit Airlines has hit a new low. Four hours ago I received an email from the airline announcing that it would begin charging as much as $45 fee for carry-on bags, the first U.S. airline to add that surcharge. This is only the latest move in the industry’s “unbundling” trend, in which airlines tack on fees for services and amenities that traditionally were included in your airfare. But Spirit’s move today marks the trend’s nadir. Perhaps the only surcharge that could surpass it for egregious gouging would be if an airline charged passengers to use the toilet—a day that certainly can’t be too far off.

Spirit will begin charging the carry-on fee for flights starting on August 1. Exceptions to the carry-on fee include medicine, food for immediate consumption, and assistive devices, presumably because it wouldn’t look right to have passengers going into convulsions for lack of meds or to charge someone for bringing crutches on board. The carry-on rule applies only to baggage placed in overhead bins. Personal items that can be placed under your seat—such as your wallet, your change purse, your ATM card, and loose cash—are free.

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Our Favorite DSLR Camera Right Now

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Question that I get asked all the time: I have a digital point-and-shoot camera that I like, but I want to take my photography to the next level. Can you recommend an easy-to-use DSLR camera that will take great images for years to come?

My new answer:  The Nikon D5000.

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I am really excited about this camera.  It has a lot of the aspects you’d expect from Nikon: wonderful colors and metering, excellent image quality, sharp lens, HD video, but it has a new feature that really gets me—the flip-and-twist LCD screen.

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U.S. Changing Way Air Travelers are Screened

201003-b-security-istockjpgThe Washington Post |  The Obama administration is abandoning its policy of using nationality alone to determine which U.S.-bound international air travelers should be subject to additional screening and will instead select passengers based on possible matches to intelligence information, including physical descriptions or a particular travel pattern, senior officials said Thursday.

After the attempted bombing of an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight on Christmas Day, U.S. officials decided that passengers from or traveling through 14 specified countries would be subjected to secondary searches. Critics have since called the measures discriminatory and overly burdensome, and the administration has faced pressure to refine its approach.

Under the new system, screeners will stop passengers for additional security if they match certain pieces of known intelligence.

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Photo courtesy of iStock

American and JetBlue Join Forces

American Airlines and JetBlue announced a new partnership today that will improve the flying experience for passengers of both airlines traveling into or out of the New York and Boston areas. Let’s say you want to fly from Nantucket to JFK on JetBlue, and then connect to Paris or London on American. Now it will be as if you’re flying on one airline—a seemless connection.

One ticket purchased, one check in, one bag check. Like flying on one airline.

Clark Mitchell is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure.

BA to Launch Second Wave of Strikes

CNNBritish Airways cabin crews were set to start a second wave of strikes at midnight Friday over the airline's planned changes to pay and working conditions.

The strike, set to last for four days, follows a three-day strike last weekend.

BA said Friday it will be able to fly more than 75 percent of customers booked to fly during the upcoming strike because so many staff are willing to cross the picket lines. Another 18 percent of passengers are booked to fly on other carriers or have changed their travel dates to avoid the strike, the airline said.

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Airport Device Follows Fliers' Phones

USA Today |  Today's smartphones and PDAs could have a new use in the nation's airports: helping passengers avoid long lines at security checkpoints. The Transportation Security Administration is looking at installing devices in airports that home in and detect personal electronic equipment. The aim is to track how long people are stuck in security lines. Information about wait times could then be posted on websites and in airports across the country.

"This technology will produce valuable data that can be used in a variety of ways," TSA spokeswoman Lauren Gaches said, noting it could help prevent checkpoint snarls.

But civil-liberties experts worry that such a system enables the government to track people's whereabouts. "It's serious business when the government begins to get near people's personal-communication devices," said American Civil Liberties Union privacy expert Jay Stanley.

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British Airways Cabin Crew to Strike After Talks Fail

New York Times / Reuters |  A three-day strike by British Airways cabin crew will go ahead from Saturday after talks with management collapsed, Britain’s Unite union said Friday.

The strike, which is likely to disrupt travel plans for thousands, presents a major headache for the ruling Labor party weeks before a general election because Unite is its biggest single financial backer.

“The strike that is planned for midnight tonight will go ahead as will the other strike we have announced,” Tony Woodley, Unite union joint general secretary, told reporters.

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United Door-to-Door Baggage Service Just $25/Bag

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United Airlines is conducting an exciting short-term experiment: If you book their Door-to-Door Baggage Service before 5 p.m. this Friday, they’ll arrange to pick up and deliver up to 9 pieces of luggage for $25 each.  The service can be booked up to 10 days in advance of a domestic trip, so even if you’re not flying for a few days, you can book it now.  The $25/bag fee covers one-way travel (so $50 roundtrip) and is only available in locations served by FedEx.

To get an idea of just how great a value this is, consider that United currently charges $25 for your first checked bag and $35 for a second bag.  (Think bypassing the airline and shipping directly through FedEx may be a deal?  Think again.  The company charges upwards of $230 to overnight one 50 lb. bag from New York to Los Angeles. Costs drop significantly with 2nd- or 3rd day delivery, but still don't merit savings enough to live out of a carry-on bag.)

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Invisibility Cloak for Your Camera

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While traveling, I'm either too slow to take my camera out of my bag to capture that perfect moment, or too nervous to flash such a pricey piece of equipment in public.

Enter the Cloak Bag, the world's first shoot-through camera bag. The bag's unique bottom zipper design allows photographers to snap away without removing their SLR cameras from the bag, which saves time and also affords photographers a bit more discretion when taking photos in unfamiliar locals where thieves may target tourists. For $49, it's a steal to have that peace of mind.

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