Snow plow in the city (Photo: IndexOpen)

Wintry weather is churning through the Midwest and South, wreaking havoc on areas not accustomed to dealing with large snowstorms. Atlanta, the busiest airport in the country, is taking a direct hit of snow and wintry mix.

Predictably, air travel has been severely impacted, with widespread cancellations and many airlines offering change fee waivers for travel throughout the Southeast. The storm is forecast to slam the Northeast Tuesday night into Wednesday, so expect delays—and waivers—from the D.C. area through Boston during that period. Most airlines have not offered waivers for that region as of press time....read more»

Oil - Oil in the shape of a dollar sign (Photo: iStockPhoto/ Mark Evans)

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A recent report, titled, "High Oil Prices Are Good for Airlines," has been making the rounds this week, leading many to wonder if the supposition is true. The idea is that rising fuel costs force airlines to be more disciplined and seek out new revenue sources, the latter of which, as we've seen with bag fees, tend to remain even after fuel prices come down.

The argument makes sense. As costs rise, funds get tight, and airlines have to be creative in maintaining their profit margin.

But rising fuel prices certainly don't do the consumer any good....read more»

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

More snow is heading toward the Northeast tomorrow, and though the storm looks to be far less severe than last week's blizzard, airlines are not taking any chances. Many have already waived change fees for travelers who may be affected by the weather. Click on a link below to see what your airline is offering:

...read more»

American jet on runway (Photo: Kansas City Aviation Department)

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American's fares no longer appear on Expedia and Orbitz, and they're being suppressed by Sabre (but not, so far, by Travelocity). On paper, this seems, and perhaps is, a pretty bad situation for American. It's locked out of a big chunk of the online travel marketplace, in one case (Orbitz) by its own choice, but largely because online travel agents (OTAs) are peeved at American for trying to change their business model. American wants to jettison global distribution systems (GDS), which transfer fares and transactions between airline and travel agent, with a direct connect model in which travel agents retrieve fares straight from the airline.

But while the Expedias and Orbitzes of the world allow American to compete side-by-side with its peers, losing those outlets may not have as significant an impact on the airline's bottom line as people think. A recent New York Times article on the subject pointed out that inventory sold on OTAs aren't exactly high-revenue bookings. These tickets "tend to be low-priced tickets sold to leisure travelers," according to the Times, and on average, fares sold by web agencies are 45 percent cheaper than fares sold by offline agencies....read more»

(Photo: Southwest)

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Southwest unveiled an overhauled Rapid Rewards program today, which expands upon the current program with new features, new status levels, and a whole new way of earning free flights.

Here are the highlights:

  • Members will now earn points rather than credits, and accrual is based on the price and type of fare purchased. Wanna Get Away fares accrue six points per dollar; Anytime fares accrue 10 points per dollar; and Business Select fares accrue 12 points per dollar.
  • Similarly, flights can be purchased with points with the cost varying by price and fare type. Wanna Get Away fares cost 60 points per dollar; Anytime fares cost 100 points per dollar; and Business Select fares cost 120 points per dollar.
  • Perhaps the new program's best feature is its seat availability: Any seat can be purchased with points, and there are no blackout dates.
  • Points do not expire as long as members earn by flying or using a partner once every 24 months.
  • Points can be redeemed for hotel stays, gift cards, and international flights through a new partnership (more details to come on that).
  • Southwest added an award tier—A-List Preferred—which adds a 100 percent mileage bonus and free Wi-Fi to the standard A-List perks. Southwest added three new perks—a 25 percent mileage bonus, a dedicated phone customer service line, and priority standby—to its A-List level.
  • Customers can now purchase points.

The program takes effect March 1, and current members will have their credits grandfathered into the new program. For more info, check out newrapidrewards.com....read more»

American plane taxiing down the runway (Photo:  Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport)

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Sabre Holdings, which operates a broad distribution system (and owns Travelocity), announced it will terminate its contract with American in August and suppress American's fares in the meantime.

In a statement, the company said, "For a number of months, American Airlines has taken actions in an attempt to impose a costly, unproven and unnecessary system on agencies and corporations, including withholding fare content from Sabre. We believe these actions are harmful to our agency and corporate customers, as well as consumers, making it harder and more costly to comparison shop."...read more»

Photo: United Airlines

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A United Airlines flight from Chicago to Frankfurt was diverted to Toronto Monday night, not because of engine failure or a bomb threat, but because—wait for it—the pilot spilled coffee on the airplane's communication device.

According to CNN, "The liquid triggered a series of emergency codes, including one for a hijacking, according to Transport Canada, the agency that regulates transportation in Canada."...read more»

American Airlines planes wait at their gates (Photo: Index Open)

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American, Orbitz, and Expedia are reportedly in active talks to resolve their three-way dispute, which has dragged on into the new year. According to the Wall Street Journal, the three sides are trying to work out an agreement that would return American's fares to the two online travel agency (OTA) sites.

But "talks"are just that, and it doesn't sound like any of the involved parties are close to the sort of compromise it would take to return things to normal....read more»

Air: Security - Hand Putting Keys in Bin (Photo: Thinkstock/© Getty Images)

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In the wake of last year's enhanced-pat-down fiasco, more and more airports are considering a break-up with the TSA. According to msnbc, airports in Orlando, Los Angeles, the Washington, D.C., metro area, Indianapolis, and Charlotte are debating the merits of ditching the TSA in favor of private companies that would implement TSA policies.

"The TSA has grown too big and we're unhappy with the way it's doing things," Larry Dale, president of Orlando Sanford International Airport, told msnbc. "My board is sold on the fact that the free enterprise system works well and that we should go with a private company we can hold directly accountable for security and customer satisfaction."...read more»

Maniera Boots (Photo: Maniera Boots)

What Is It: The Maniera Sport Rockall is a PVC-free rain-boot that features a cushioned footbed, a toasty faux-fur lining, and are designed to be pliable enough that you can fold the boot tops down (so they take up about the same amount of space as a regular pair of shoes in your luggage).

Price and Where to Buy: $135 on Maniera's homepage.

Pros: When you're going to a rainy, wet destination (London, we're looking at you), nothing can put a damper on your trip faster than damp feet. The Maniera Rockall boots that we tried were by far the most comfortable we'd ever worn, due to the warm faux-fur lining and cushy padded footbed. The boots kept our feet dry even sloshing through puddles, and are fashionable enough that we wouldn't be ashamed to break them out in a fashionable city. Unlike most rainboots that have stiff boot tops, these fold easily and could be compacted to fit in a carry-on. Plus, they come with a handy drawstring bag that you could attach to your backpack or other bag for easy transporting while they're wet....read more»

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