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<strong>Colmar, France</strong>

As the capital of central Alsace, <a href="http://www.ot-colmar.fr/index.php?lang=en" target="_blank">Colmar</a> offers a delightful mixture of French culture and Bavarian architecture. Though the city is more than 1,000 years old, it remains fairly well preserved, and the colorful, half-timbered homes look like they are ripped right from the pages of a childhood fairytale. Each year, the town is transformed into a brightly-lit wonderland for the Christmas Markets, when visitors rejoice in purchasing handmade goods and foods. 

(Photo: iStockphoto/Grafissimo)

Haven’t booked your summer Europe flight yet? Well, you may still have a few options before the ship sails across the Pond without you.

We’ve been tracking peak-season rates on many popular European routes for August travel since the beginning of the year, and though summer fares are considerably higher than two months ago, they are comparable or even cheaper than 30 days ago.  

Here is the latest snapshot of some of those routes we’ve been tracking....read more»

Spirit jet in the air  (Photo: Spirit Airlines)

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Spirit Airlines' pilots are on strike, in case you didn't know. The airline's unit of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has been trying for two years to get a new contract, and despite Spirit's offer of what it calls a "fair and equitable" deal (more on that later), no agreement has been reached. Having gone through all the appropriate channels and waited through a mandatory 30-day cooling off period, the pilots elected to walk.

Strikes are a major inconvenience for all involved—but they're also an inevitable part of business. For ticketed passengers, however, Spirit's poor customer relations effort has taken a bad situation and made it much, much worse....read more»

Spirit Airlines aircraft tail (Photo: Spirit Airlines)

**UPDATE: Spirit has cancelled all flights through Thursday, June 17**

Spirit has now canceled flights through Thursday as it tried to reach an agreement with its striking pilots union. So far, it seems no talks have taken place since negations broke down in the early morning hours Saturday. Customers traveling with Spirit through Wednesday will receive a full cash refund or flight credit, along with an additional $100 credit.

As for Spirit's purported "partnerships," none have materialized. The Associated Press (AP) reports that Spirit has one aircraft from another carrier and hopes to complete some flights. The airline is also hoping to get some of its 31 aircraft in the air with management pilots or others who cross the picket line, but so far no members of the pilots union have done so....read more»

Spirit Airlines aircraft on runway (Photo: Spirit Airlines)

Spirit has started canceling flights as a pilot strike, which could begin as soon as midnight tonight, appears more and more likely. The Associated Press (AP) reports that both sides have publicly stated they would like to make a deal, but so far negotiations have produced nothing.

The news of canceling flights is significant because earlier this week, Spirit claimed it had arranged "partnerships" with other airlines to ensure service isn't disrupted, at least not severely, during a strike. However, the airline did not provide any details about these partnerships, leading some (including me) to wonder if the airline really had a realistic contingency plan in place. This news doesn't necessarily confirm those suspicions, but it certainly doesn't cast Spirit as prepared for the strike....read more»

Peanuts (Photo: iStockPhoto/Joe Cicak)

The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently announced a series of proposed consumer rights initiatives designed to make flying a little less frustrating for you and me. But since these are only proposals, the public has 60 days to comment on the DOT's ideas. I'll be doing a series of in-depth breakdowns of these proposals, and I encourage all SmarterTravel readers to head over to regulationroom.org and share their thoughts on the DOT's plans. The DOT is trying to help you, so let's make sure its solutions actually work for real, live travelers.

Be sure to see our previous in-depth looks at the DOT's proposals for Bumping Compensation, Tarmac Delays, and Fare Transparency.

In-flight peanuts may not seem like an issue worth the DOT's time and effort. But to those who suffer from intense peanut allergies, the thought of spending long hours in a confined space with the aroma of peanuts wafting through the cabin can be too much. So what, if anything, should the DOT do?...read more»

Delta aircraft tail (Photo: Delta)

Delta mistakenly sent two unaccompanied minors to the wrong destinations, in what the airline is calling an unfortunate paperwork error. The Associated Press (AP) reports that "the children were connecting through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Tuesday when they were put on the wrong connecting flights because of a 'paperwork swap.'" Both were traveling under the care of Delta's unaccompanied minors program, and were supervised throughout the whole ordeal.

As a result, one of the children, a boy, ended up in Cleveland instead of Boston, and the other, a girl, ended up in Boston instead of Cleveland.

"It was just weird," the boy told the AP. "I was like, 'I'm supposed to be at Boston, not Cleveland.' It was just weird."

You've got to hand it to kids, though—they're better than some adults at taking a disruption like this in stride. Here's to the boy's description of Delta's treatment of him, from the AP: "[They said] 'Sorry for leaving you here when you're really supposed to be in Boston.' It was kind of nice. They gave me some free food and some Dunkin' Donuts."...read more»

Airport baggage handler (Photo: Index Open)

The International Air Transportation Association (IATA), which represents the global airline industry, wants to create a database of every airline's baggage fees and charges. Dubbed the Automated Carrier Baggage Rules (ACBR), the IATA says the list "will provide a central database for interline baggage rules, enabling airlines, travel agents, and passengers to know what baggage rules will apply for any given itinerary."

In a release, Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said, "Baggage rules are becoming increasingly complex and confusing. We must improve transparency so that travelers know what to expect."

Also: The sky is blue. Et cetera....read more»

Artist's rendering of Spirit airplane (Credit: Spirit Airlines)

After years of failed negotiations, Spirit Airlines' pilots appear ready to go on strike this Saturday. The National Mediation Board (NMB), which has facilitated discussions between the two sides, declared an impasse in May. The subsequent mandatory 30-day cooling-off period ends at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, and the pilots can commence labor actions at any time after that.

Spirit claims to have a contingency plan in place, and says it will continue to serve its customers in the event of a strike. Spirit spokesperson Misty Pinson told the Associated Press (AP) that the airline is "partnering with other air carrier providers to continue to serve our customers," though she declined to offer details about these partnerships.

Sean Creed, head of Spirit's Airline Pilots Association unit, expressed skepticism about Spirit's purported backup plan...read more»

Woman standing at a Taxi Stand (Photo: iStockphoto/Willie B. Thomas)

In our recent series of articles about travel scams (10 Worst Travel Rip-Offs … And How to Avoid Them, The Five Worst Travel Scams, and Terrible Scams and Rip-Offs), readers wrote in with additional scams they'd seen. A number of the comments detailed taxi scams from around the world. Here are some to watch out for.

Long Hauling in Las Vegas

Many of you reported less-than-honest behavior from Las Vegas taxi drivers. Reader anthonylee05 describes the basic grift: "Instead of the most direct route the driver would take me onto a much longer route in order to make the most money." What to do if it happens to you? Reader gentlemanspirit mentions that there's even a phone number to report taxi scams. The Nevada Taxi Cab Authority, which calls the practice of taking the long way "long hauling," has an online complaint form, a long route voluntary witness statement, and also fields complaints by phone at 702-668-4000....read more»

Money: Fingers with dollar caught in Mousetrap (Photo: iStockphoto/SpotX)

The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently announced a series of proposed consumer rights initiatives designed to make flying a little less frustrating for you and me. But since these are only proposals, the public has 60 days to comment on the DOT's ideas. I'll be doing a series of in-depth breakdowns of these proposals, and I encourage all SmarterTravel readers to head over to regulationroom.org and share your thoughts on the DOT's plans. The DOT is trying to help you, so let's make sure its solutions actually work for real, live travelers.

Be sure to see our previous in-depth looks at the DOT's proposals for Bumping Compensation and Tarmac Delays.

When you see an advertised fare, what are you actually looking at? Is it round-trip? Does it include taxes and fees? The DOT, for its part, is tired of asking these questions.

The Basics: The DOT is proposing a change to airfare advertising that would remove just about every last shred of ambiguity about whether or not the fare you see is the fare you'll pay....read more»

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