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Woman with earphones on a plane (Photo: Dragan Trifunovic/iStockphoto.com)

With Continental pulling the plug on free meals, you may be wondering what, if anything, you can still get for free in coach on a domestic flight. Well, here's a list, and you can see, it's not a long one:

  • AirTran: Soft drinks, blankets/pillows, XM satellite radio
  • Alaska: Soft drinks, blankets/pillows
  • American: Soft drinks, in-flight programming/radio
  • Continental: Meals (ending this fall), soft drinks, blankets (select flights), pillows; in-flight movie/radio, some Delta on Demand options (including live satellite TV, games, and music).
  • Delta: Soft drinks, small snack, blankets/pillows, in-flight movie/radio
  • Frontier: Soft drinks
  • JetBlue: First checked bag, unlimited snacks, soft drinks, DirecTV, XM satellite radio
  • Hawaiian: Meals (most long-haul routes), blankets/pillows
  • Midwest: Soft drinks, cookies (select flights after 10 a.m.)
  • Southwest: First and second checked bag, small snack, soft drinks
  • Spirit: Nothing
  • United: Soft drinks, blankets/pillows (international), in-flight movie/programming/radio
  • US Airways: Soft drinks, in-flight movie/programming/radio
  • Virgin America: Soft drinks, satellite TV, video games, 3,000-song music library, seat-to-seat chat, music video library

("Soft drinks" includes soda, water, juice, coffee, tea, etc., but may not include energy drinks and other specialty non-alcoholic beverages.)

On the positive side, there's not a whole lot left to charge for....read more»

<p>Beer lovers, rejoice: More than 200 brands of beer&mdash;stouts, pale ales, lagers, and more&mdash;are available for quaffing at <a href="http://www.beerfestival.ca/"target="_blank">Toronto's Festival of Beer</a>, Canada's largest beer-tasting event. The 12th annual festival will be held August 10 through 12 at historic Fort York. There's also southern-style barbecue; a grilling tent; and live jazz, blues, country, and R&amp;B music acts. Advance tickets are $21 for Friday or Sunday and $26 for Saturday, or pay $26 for Friday or Sunday and $31 for Saturday at the gate.</p><p>Photo: Index Open</p>

St. Patrick's Day is coming up fast, and to celebrate, here's a look at some lesser known holiday destinations. You won't find Dublin, Chicago, or Boston on this list. Nope. Instead, we're talking about the intersection between volcanoes and shamrocks, Bo Derek, and Ireland in Japan.

Hot Springs, Arkansas: If, when you think of St. Patrick's Day, Bo Derek immediately springs to mind, then book a trip to Hot Spring, Arkansas, immediately. That's because she will be the grand marshal at this year's First Ever Seventh Annual World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade. This quirky parade will feature Irish belly dancers, Irish Elvis impersonators, Irish Wolfhounds, and green fireworks, and includes a pub crawl.

Good for: Travelers looking for a fun and unusual way to celebrate. ...read more»

Man getting poked in the eye by paper plane.

Continental announced today that it will discontinue free meals on most flights in favor of a for-purchase option. In a release, Continental said it "will change its in-flight meal service this fall by introducing a variety of high quality, healthy food choices for purchase in economy class on many U.S./Canada and certain Latin American routes. The airline will continue to offer complimentary food in the economy cabin on all intercontinental and certain other international routes, and on long-haul domestic routes over six hours."

Business- and first-class passengers will continue to receive complimentary meals.

Continental seems alert to the negativity sure to follow such a move. The airline is quick to point out that "all of Continental's significant U.S. competitors either do not offer food or have already implemented food sales for economy class travelers," and also notes its ongoing customer-friendly initiatives, such as installing DirecTV and Wi-Fi (both of which come with a fee) and adding lie-flat beds in BusinessFirst.

Continental also tries to sell the switch as a good thing. In the statement, Jim Compton, executive vice president and chief marketing officer says, "We are improving our economy meal service with a high-quality, industry-leading food-for-purchase program that is consistent with the strong brand image and high service standards for which our customers recognize us.

"Our traditional free-food model has served us well for many years, but we need to change to reflect today's market and customer preferences." (Wait, whose preferences?)...read more»

Travel Warning (Photo: Molly Feltner)

Following a surge in drug-related violence, the government is advising citizens to delay unnecessary travel to several Mexican cities and regions along the U.S. border....read more»

Airplane - Sun Flare (Photo: iStockPhoto/Remus Eserblom)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing a $787,500 fine against American Airlines for a series of maintenance violations. According to CNN, "The fines encompass three incidents beginning in March 2008, when American Airlines failed to follow a directive on the inspection of rudder components on certain Boeing 757s, according to the FAA. Four of its 757s did not comply with airworthiness requirements as a result.

"In April 2008, the airline allowed one of its jetliners to fly 10 passenger flights after mechanics diagnosed a problem with one of the plane's central air data computers, according to the agency. During that time, the flight crew members were led to believe that both computers were working properly.

"In the third case, mechanics at American Airlines returned a MD-82 jetliner to service in May, even though several steps of its maintenance schedule had not been checked off as completed, the agency said."

That second infraction, concerning the central air data computers, accounts for approximate $625,000 of the total fine....read more»

Coach seating in 737 (Photo: Bert Van Wijk/iStockphoto)

Let’s be honest: Airplane seats are pretty darn uncomfortable. In fact, I thought that finding five ways to make a flight more pleasant was a tough task. As it turned out, our readers wrote in with nearly 100 ways to make the medieval torture device (also known as a coach seat) a more restful experience. As the comments moderator here at SmarterTravel, I was ecstatic that so many of our readers wrote in, so I decided to round up some of the best.

...read more»

Spring is the ideal time to visit Europe: The weather is pleasant, the summer crowds haven't yet arrived, and best of all, everything's affordable. I've compiled 10 of the best Europe vacation deals for travel in the upcoming months, with accompanying photos that will leave you daydreaming about your spring vacation.

<h2>Paris in the Springtime (and Fall)</h2>

Air France Holidays' <a href="http://www.airfrance-holidays.com/site_afh/pub_detail.asp?id=12996&iType=0" target="_blank">Presenting Paris</a> vacation package is an affordable option for exploring the City of Lights. Round-trip airfare on <a href="http://www.airfrance.us" target="_blank">Air France</a> and six nights' accommodations at the <a href="http://www.choicehotels.fr/hotels/hotel?hotel=FR295" target="_blank">Comfort Gare de L'Est Hotel</a> are included, with extras such as a <a href="http://www.airfrance-holidays.com/site_afh/sightseeing-tours/paris-1057.asp" target="_blank">Bateaux Mouches river cruise</a>, a city map of Paris, continental breakfast, and hotel taxes and service charges. 

The base price of $799 is based on spring departures from New York City between April 1 and May 15, and again from September 8 through October 25. You can customize this package based on your departure city. For example, Philadelphia departures are an extra $30, and Washington, D.C., departures are an extra $70. 

(Photo: iStockPhoto/urbandevill)

Everyone has a different approach to booking airfare. There’s the trigger-happy shopper, the overly cautious planner, the last-minute daredevil who hopes to snatch the remaining unfilled seats, and everyone in between. But whatever methodology you normally employ, booking for Europe summer travel is a completely different beast. For one, since demand is higher during the summer peak season, carriers don’t need to entice people to buy, so don’t wait for the elusive summer sales from the airlines because there likely won’t be much to choose from. And if there are, the blackout dates and other choking restrictions will make finding availability for the low advertised rates harder than finding a needle in an airplane boneyard.

Instead of getting lost in a sea of airfares and booking blindly, track prices for the time period you have in mind. ...read more»

British Airways aircrafts at the gate  (Photo: British Airways)

British Airways' cabin crew, Unite, announced it will go on strike for seven days later this month. This follows a strike vote in February and a series of unsuccessful talks with the airline, and comes ahead of a busy Easter holiday travel period (though Unite will keep its promise not to strike during the actual holiday). The strike is set to run for three days starting March 20 and four more days starting March 27.

There is a glimmer of hope, however, according to the Associated Press (AP). A new offer from British Airways will be put to a vote next Thursday. If the union's members accept the offer, the strike will be called off. However, union officials said the offer was unsatisfactory and they will not recommend a vote of approval....read more»

Airport security (Photo: P. Wei, iStockphoto.com)

The man who breached security at Newark airport and, in the process, caused widespread delays across the country, has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of defiant trespassing. Haisong Jiang, will pay a $500 fine and perform 100 hours of community service, after crossing into an unguarded post-security area at the airport.

According to the Associated Press (AP), Jiang, who had snuck under the security rope to say one last goodbye to his girlfriend before she flew to California, apologized publicly for the first time outside the courthouse. "I want to deeply apologize to those (affected) for my breach," Jiang said. "I just wanted to spend more time with my girlfriend. I made a big mistake, and I also learned a big lesson."...read more»

Photo: Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus plans to lay off all 1,200 of its crew in Ireland, then rehire some employees at a lower pay scale and under new working conditions. That should go over real well....read more»

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