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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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(Language) Practice Makes Perfect on the iPhone

For the last week or so, I spent some time playing around with a couple of iPhone/iPod Touch apps created by a company called MemoryLifter.* As the name suggests, the apps are of the brain food sort. While they offer an assortment of genres—anatomy, chemistry abbreviations, world flags, etc.—I was most interested in the language apps.

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Each language available—there are 10 right now: German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, French, Chinese, Japanese, and Swedish—comes with an assortment of area-specific apps, like basic vocab, verbs, education & work, family, shopping & restaurant, and more.

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More Hotels Offer 'Pay Before You Stay' Discounts

USA Today |  Pay before you stay, and save. That has been the deal with online travel sites and discount tour operators. Now, an increasing number of hotels are slashing room rates if you ante up in full in advance and forego a refund if you don't show up.

Last year, Fairmont hotels began offering savings up up to 30% to those who book ahead and pay in full.

Now, "I would say the majority of our hotels offer 'Savers' rates. It's one way we can offer a discount" without cheapening the upscale brand, Fairmont spokeswoman Lori Holland says. Prepaying also guarantees revenue ahead of time: "We know people are coming," she says.

Las Vegas hotels often charge a credit card when a stay is booked. But Station Casinos, with 10 properties in the area including the upscale Red Rock Resort, just announced a tiered, online pre-pay program that offers deep discounts.

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Paperless Boarding Takes off at United

CNN |  More air travelers may soon be scanning their smartphones instead of paper slips at airport gates.

United has become the latest airline to offer mobile boarding passes for customers equipped with Web-enabled mobile phones or devices, such as iPhones or BlackBerrys.

United passengers traveling within the United States, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands can now log on to mobile.united.com to check in for their flights via their smartphones.

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