Air - Plane Waiting at Terminal in Bad Weather (Photo: thinkstock/iStockphoto)

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Oh look, another winter storm.

In what has become a comedy of climatological calamities, Winter 2011 is at it again with another massive storm that threatens to cripple our nation's travel infrastructure. According to the National Weather Service, the Midwest is bearing the brunt of the weather today, with snow, sleet, and freezing rain moving into the Northeast tomorrow morning before finally shoving off Wednesday night.

Needless to say, travelers can expect cancellations and delays from Kansas City to Boston, and pretty much everywhere in between....read more»

The Capitol, Washington, D.C.

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The Senate appears set to once again take up the Federal Aviation Authorization bill, which it passed by an overwhelming 93-0 vote last year before the bill died in the House.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the tactic this time is to sell the bill, which includes essential long-term funding for our nation's air travel infrastructure, as a jobs-maker. Bill proponents say the legislation could "support the employment of 90,000 workers and affect another 190,000 jobs," largely through an $8 billion investment in airport construction.

Hey, whatever works.

For consumers, there are a lot of important changes, both near- and long-term, tied up in this bill....read more»

Photo: JetBlue

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It's no secret that fuel prices are driving fares upward. Case in point: News that JetBlue has tacked a $35 to $45 fuel surcharge onto its Caribbean flights.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the airline "recently added a $35 fuel surcharge for flights in or out of Puerto Rico and $45 for Caribbean destinations." This is in addition to raising fares 4 percent in the fourth quarter. JetBlue, like all airlines, is expecting a much heftier fuel bill in 2011....read more»

Airport - Departure screen full of canceled flights (Photo: iStockPhoto/Simon Smith)

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The latest storm to slam the Northeast is being blamed for over 4,000 flight cancellations, reports USA Today's Ben Mutzabaugh. "Flight schedules were a mess for a second straight day in the Northeast," Mutzabaugh writes, "with more than 4,400 cancellations now blamed on the fifth major winter storm to hit the region in as many weeks." Cancellations impacted far-off airports as well, including some on the West Coast and Europe, where flights bound for the Northeast or dependent on aircraft coming from the region were scrapped.

Delays and cancellations have stretched well into today, as well. As of 4:10 p.m., FlightAware.com was reporting delays of four hours and 17 minutes at JFK, and delays of just over two hours at Newark and Philadelphia. Both JFK and Newark were shut down from around midnight last night until mid-morning today. Washington, D.C., and Boston were showing normal operations....read more»

Alaska Airlines 737 up close (Photo: Alaska Airlines)

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Horizon Airlines will soon be no more: The airline's partner, Alaska Airlines, announced it will retire the Horizon brand (mostly) and operate Horizon flights under the Alaska name. Or, as Alaska put it, "Horizon Air is retiring its public brand and adopting the Alaska Airlines Eskimo." Airplane livery will feature the Alaska name, as will airport signage, and horizonair.com will make the switch, too.

The decision dates back to a change in the two airlines' business relationship, announced last August. Previously, 45 percent of the flights Horizon operated for Alaska were done so under a "capacity purchase agreement" (CPA), which meant Alaska paid a flat fee for those flights regardless of how many passengers were on board. The remaining 55 percent of flights were a revenue share, in which Alaska and Horizon split the earnings. The shift announced in August converted the airlines' relationship to a 100 percent capacity purchase agreement, effectively making Horizon a more integrated part of Alaska's operations....read more»

Air: Security - Man Being Patted Down (Photo: Thinkstock/Hemera)

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Following Monday's bombing of Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, the inevitable question quickly became: Could it happen here? A suicide bomber simply walked into the arrivals hall, a public area, and blew himself up, killing 35 people and injuring 168. There was nothing complicated about the plan, no circumvention of metal detectors or other security technology, and really no time for anyone to recognize that a suspicious and potentially dangerous person was in the area.

More troubling, the general consensus among TSA watchers seems to be that, no, the TSA probably wouldn't have stopped the attack either, despite implementing a $212 million program designed to identify suspicious persons based on their behavior. Called SPOT, which stands for Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, the program has screeners look for tiny behavioral clues in the faces of passersby. Screeners receive four days of training for the program, which focuses on "micro-expressions" to identify potential threats. But according to ABC News, critics say the program is ineffective....read more»

Vision Airlines Plane in Blue Sky (Photo: Vision Airlines)

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Vision Airlines is not new—it's been around as a tour and charter airline for some 20 years—but its recent foray into commercial passenger traffic has been getting buzz lately. So what, or who, is Vision Airlines, and is the airline built for the long haul, so to speak?

First off, the product. Vision's focus is the Gulf Coast region of the U.S., with its hub at Northwest Florida Regional Airport near Destin, Florida. From there, Vision will connect to 22 cities, including larger ones such as Miami, Orlando, and Houston, and smaller ones such as Gulfport, Mississippi, and Macon, Georgia. Aside from Niagara Falls, service will be limited to the Southeast.

Currently, the only routes in operation are Atlanta to Louisville, and Niagara Falls to Destin and Miami. The bulk of Vision's routes will launch March 25, with some beginning on April 1....read more»

Airplane Being De-Iced (Photo: iStockphoto/Richard Goerg)

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Wintry weather is once again moving into the Northeast, bringing snow, sleet, and airline delays and cancellations to the region. Carriers are waiving change fees for affected travelers, and some airlines (noted below) are even waiving the fare difference, too. This means travelers can rebook a pricier ticket and pay nothing for the convenience.

Here are the airlines with change fee waivers in place:...read more»

TripAdvisor Logo. (PRNewsFoto/TripAdvisor)

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I count myself as fortunate to have never stayed in a truly gross hotel. I've stayed in one hotel, in Gibraltar, that was a bit on the threadbare side (OK, the shared bathroom was a little slimy), but I've managed to dodge the truly revolting, roach-infested disasters we all know lurk in even the most upscale destinations.

Case in point: Sister site TripAdvisor's annual Dirtiest Hotels list. The 2011 edition is swarming with bed bugs and other creepy crawlies, and features moldy bathrooms, stained bedding, hair-clogged sinks and showers, and pretty much every other manifestation of hotel horror you could imagine....read more»

Airplane Past Empty Seats (Photo: iStockphoto/Shane Kato)

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Airlines are in the midst of posting their fourth-quarter and full-year financial results for 2010, and the numbers, so far, have been pretty good. Delta and Southwest have already posted profits, and the industry as a whole is expected to be in the black. And as the Associated Press (AP) reports, this success can be tied to one thing: Flying less.

"After a decade of multibillion-dollar losses, U.S. airlines appear to be on course to prosper for years to come for a simple reason: They are flying less," writes the AP's David Koenig. "Profit margins at big airlines are the highest in at least a decade, according to the government. The eight largest U.S. airlines are forecast to earn more than $5 billion this year and $5.6 billion in 2012."

It's a simple equation: Cutting available seat capacity during the recession allowed airlines to stabilize fares. Now that travel demand is coming back, maintaining those capacity levels lets airlines raise fares....read more»

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