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Photo: iStockphoto

In formal comments filed with the Department of Transportation (DOT), the International Air Travel Association (IATA) called the agency's proposed consumer protections rules "an unprecedented intervention in the business practices of airlines serving the U.S" that are "inconsistent with both international and domestic law."

The IATA accuses the DOT of imposing laws on foreign carriers operating on foreign soil, and says the "extraterritorial" application of these restrictions by the DOT cannot be justified by the DOT's "stated broad mandate to ensure safe and adequate transportation and/or to address unfair or deceptive practices by the airlines." Basically, the new rules should not apply to non-U.S. carriers.

But the DOT's proposed rules would only apply to business and operations on U.S. soil....read more»

Airport: Woman in Security Check Line (Photo: iStockphoto/james steidl)

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced it will expand the number of workers that receive "secret" information on terrorist activity. Over the next two years, 10,000 TSA workers will receive clearance that allows them to access the latest reports on terrorist threats and tactics, in an effort to strengthen the agency's counterterrorism capabilities.

According to CNN, "It is expected to take two years to do the necessary background checks and paperwork on 10,000 explosive specialists, behavior detection officers, supervisory security officers and transportation security managers."...read more»

<p>If Ohio isn't one of the first places that comes to mind when thinking about fall foliage, think again. This Midwestern state has been wowing visitors with its impressive array of colors for years. The northern part of the state begins to turn in late September, and the process trickles down to the southern areas by the end of October. Keep an eye on the different <a href="http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/tabid/9584/default.aspx" target="_blank">regions' conditions</a> to see which will be offering the most color at the time of your visit.</p><p>(Photo: iStockphoto.com)</p>

More than most vacations, fall foliage trips require perfect timing. Peak color is fleeting, so a week can make the difference between just "ooh" and "ooh-la-la."

Planning that fall foliage excursion is a whole lot easier than it used to be, though. An abundance of online foliage maps takes a lot of the gamble out of leaf peeping....read more»

Photo: United Airlines

This past May, United found itself in a tarmac delay situation in Colorado Springs. Four planes heading for Denver were diverted due to weather. The planes landed, but had nowhere to go. As minutes turned into hours, United served its passengers water and snacks, and eventually brought runway stairs and buses so passengers could de-plane if they wished (many did).

After four hours and forty minutes on the tarmac, the planes were off the ground and heading toward Denver. United reported the incident to the Department of Transportation (DOT), despite believing it had acted within the terms of the DOT's tarmac delay rules.

The DOT agreed—United did everything properly. And since United did everything correctly, there was no need for the report the airline filed. So the DOT decided to fine the airline $12,000 for filing the report, which it says led to a costly and ultimately unnecessary investigation of the delays....read more»

Photo: JetBlue

JetBlue is reportedly close to a deal with ViaSat, a technology company based in Carlsbad, California, to install in-flight wireless access on 160 planes. JetBlue is one of the few major domestic carriers that doesn't offer some sort of wireless Internet access, though it does fly one plane equipped with limited messaging capabilities.

But while JetBlue is late to the party, it seems the airline may be upping the ante in terms of connectivity....read more»

Planes taking off behind pink sky (Photo: Index Open)

There's a scene about halfway through "Please Remove Your Shoes," ("PRYS") a new documentary about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), that I've been replaying in my head since the Boston Film Festival's screening of the movie ended yesterday. Here's how it goes:

A former TSA special agent, Steve Elson, is standing in front of a dormant X-ray machine. Facing the camera, he tells a story about a test completed some years prior. A bomb was placed in a carry-on bag along with other common items a traveler might bring. A bottle of water was placed on top of these items, and the special agent executing the test proceeded toward security. The bag caught the TSA screeners' attention, as it should have, and upon opening the bag, agents removed the bottle of water.

The bomb, however, went undetected....read more»

<strong>Money</strong>

Imagine you innocently go to reach for the <em>Sky Mall Magazine</em>, but instead are rewarded with a wad of cash or a $500 check, as one reader discovered. Finding money can be about as exciting as hitting the jackpot in Vegas, especially when it's in an unexpected place like an airplane, and many of our readers are big winners. Not to mention, you can now afford to buy something from the in-flight magazine, like that <a href="http://www.skymall.com/shopping/detail.htm?pid=102517807" target="_blank">Big Foot Garden Yeti Sculpture</a> you've been eyeing.

<strong>What about you?</strong>

What other weird, gross, or just plain crazy items have you found in a seatback pocket while flying? Leave a comment below, or to submit your photos, <a href="mailto:kate.hamman@smartertravelmedia.com?subject=Photo submission for SmarterTravel">send us an email</a> with no more than three images attached. 
<h2>All photos must be:</h2>

<ul><li>In .gif or .jpg format</li>
<li> No larger than 2MB</li>
<li> Family friendly</li>
<li> Original, non-copyrighted images</li>
<li> Virus-free</li></ul>

See our <a href="http://www.smartertravel.com/us/terms.html">Terms and Conditions</a> for complete details on our submission criteria.

The numbers never fail to dumbfound: U.S. airlines made $2.1 billion in revenue from ancillary fees in the second quarter of this year. Ancillary fees, in the parlance of the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), refers to "baggage fees, reservation change fees and miscellaneous operating revenue, including pet transportation, sale of frequent flyer award miles to airline business partners and standby passenger fees."

Breaking down the $2.1 billion reveals more staggering figures: $893 million from bag fees; $594 million from change fees; $618 million in "miscellaneous operating revenue," which includes pet fees and standby fees.

More importantly, most of these numbers are on the rise....read more»

Man clinging to airplane seat (Photo: Index Open)

The frustration of booking fares these days is no secret, what with all the ancillary charges airlines add on to your final price. But new analysis from the Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA) manages to quantify exactly how frustrating the process can be.

CTA found that U.S. airlines are not disclosing the majority of their ancillary fees on their websites, and instead reveal specific fees as customers move through the booking process. At most, airline websites say the airline charges for something (extra legroom, for example), but do not provide a detailed accounting of how much is charged. Those amounts are only made known as the customer books.

The lone exception is bag fees, which, in some cases, are displayed on a page accessible from the homepage....read more»

Wallet with cards ( iStockPhoto.com/Blade Kostas)

Nothing can ruin a vacation faster than having your pocket picked. One minute you're enjoying the sights and sounds of a new city, the next minute you're on the phone canceling credit cards.

Unfortunately, pickpocketing is a fact of traveling life, and several popular cities have earned themselves a reputation as a place where wallets go to be snatched. Our sister site, TripAdvisor, just released a list of the World's Worst Pickpocket Destinations. The list "based solely on TripAdvisor site data calculating the number of times travelers use the term pickpocket in their TripAdvisor reviews in the last 12 months." Take a look and see if you agree:...read more»

Airplane in pink sky (Photo: iStockPhoto/Linda & Colin McKie)

In-flight safety videos are boring. Think about it: How often do you see people watching the in-flight safety video with anything more than passing interest? You're more likely to see people reading, sleeping, or simply staring off into space.

But in-flight safety videos are also full of important information that could save your life in an emergency. Here are 10 in-flight safety videos sure to hold your attention....read more»

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