US Airways aircraft close up (Photo: US Airways)

The American and US Airways boards approved a merger late Wednesday. The merger will create the world's biggest airline, and the new carrier will operate under the American Airlines name.

Industry mavens wasted no time trying to scope out what will happen after the inevitable combination. We figure we can speculate with the best of them, so here's our scenario:

Phase One: For the first six months to a year, nothing much will happen that will have any impact on passengers; that's the amount of time required to go through the standard legalities and red tape. Government approvals may take longer than usual because foreign agencies as well as the U.S. government must sign off on the deal....read more»

Product: iPhone Wallet Case (Photo: MapiCases)

What Is It? A multi-functioning leather case designed to join you and your iPhone at the hip, literally. The case's leather-bound belt clip keeps your phone within reach at all times.

Price and Where to Buy: The Alinda case from MapiCases can be purchased at MapiCases.com for $50. Upgrade to the case-and-cover bundle for $75.

Pros: If your cell phone is anything like mine, it's been lost, forgotten, or otherwise mistreated (read: dropped in the toilet) at least a few times. And things only get worse when I travel—I am forever digging through an overstuffed bag, feeling around blindly for my elusive iPhone. So for someone who's prone to misplacing things, this case is a godsend. It's designed to clip onto your body—so you'd have to work really hard to lose your phone with it attached to your pants. It stayed securely attached, too, even while walking at a brisk pace to my gate.

Cons: The case-and-cover bundle provides the Alinda case and also a matching leather "bumper" for your phone. The bumper presented a few problems for me, however: it made it difficult to remove my phone from the case in time to pick up incoming calls and, with the bumper on, my phone was a bit too unwieldy to slip easily back into the case when my call ended. When I removed the bumper, my phone fit perfectly into the case without any problems and still felt protected....read more»

Photo: Icelandair

Alaska Airlines has notified members of its Mileage Plan program that, effective June 1, 2013, Icelandair will no longer be a partner in Mileage Plan. That means that program members won't earn miles for Icelandair flights after May 31. And they'll no longer be able to book award flights on Icelandair using Alaska miles, although award bookings made before the deadline will be honored for travel through February 28, 2014.

Alaska is Icelandair's only U.S. airline partner, so unless it establishes a new relationship with another U.S. carrier, American travelers will have no viable mileage earning or redemption options when flying Icelandair after the breakup....read more»

Photo: iStockphoto

Air Transport World announced the winners of its 39th Airline Industry Achievement Awards.

And the airline of the year is ... drumroll, please ... All Nippon Airways.

According to ATW: "Japan-based ANA is being honored for its exceptional financial performance, fiscal management, customer service and technology leadership that set the bar for the entire global airline industry."...read more»

Wealthy Couple Boarding Private Jet (Photo: Thinkstock/Image Source)

Hoping to find a little romance in the skies? Better pick a seat next to a British flyer, as flight attendants called them out as the most likely to join the mile high club. Travel website Skyscanner asked over 700 cabin crew members which nationalities were most likely to slip off for a quickie, and the Brits were voted number one.

No charming Englishmen (or women) on your flight? Australians, Germans, French, and Brazilians rounded up the top five most likely to get lucky in the skies....read more»

Air: Planes Traversing Globe (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

Amid Dreamliner woes and mega storms, travelers can find some comfort knowing that air travel is safer now than it's been in decades.

According to a report from The New York Times, data from the Aviation Safety Network shows that global commercial air travel is safer than it's been in a very long time—since the dawn of the jet age, in fact. There were 23 deadly plane accidents and 475 deaths in 2012, the lowest such numbers since 1945.

Arnold Barnett, a professor of statistics at M.I.T., told The Times that the death risk for air passengers over the last five years is one in 45 million flights. Comparatively, your chances of being struck by lightening are one in three million, says the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. ...read more»

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner (Photo: Boeing Image)

Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave Boeing permission to test fly its 787 Dreamliner, in hopes of getting closer to identifying the causes of the plane's recent troubles (see below) and, ultimately, returning the 50 grounded planes to service.

The go-ahead was given on condition that Boeing not operate the Dreamliner over heavily populated areas.

According to Boeing, the flights would "allow Boeing to conduct testing of the in-flight performance of the airplane's batteries, which will provide data to support the continuing investigations into the cause of the recent 787 battery incidents."

On February 9 and again two days later, Boeing completed two test flights, using one of six 787 test planes specially fitted with electronic tools to monitor and diagnose battery-related issues....read more»

Product: Dynamo Flashlight (Photo: Coghlan's)

What Is it: Coghlan's Dynamo Flashlight, a tiny travel light powered by a hand crank rather than batteries.

Price and Where to Buy: Between $4 and $6 at various camping and department stores, as well as online at Amazon.

Pros: No batteries required! Just crank the flashlight's lever for one minute and you'll be rewarded with 30 minutes of power (which can be stored for later use—you can crank it ahead of time, turn it off, and have light ready for you later). The flashlight uses two bright LEDs which are more than enough to light a tent or illuminate your suitcase in a dark hostel room. The Dynamo is small and lightweight, and can be clipped on to your key-chain for easy access. 

Cons: None. We love this little light! ...read more»

Chip-and-PIN Credit Card (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

The logjam in chip-technology credit cards has finally broken, and, as of now, dozens of chip-enabled cards are available from banks based in the United States, with more coming along steadily.

Previously, technical differences in conventional cards issued by U.S. banks have made life increasingly difficult when you're traveling outside the country. Many of you have found that you can't actually complete a purchase when you have to use some automated payment machine and no attendant is available—rail and transit ticket dispensers, automated gasoline pumps, toll booths, and the like. And even when an attendant is available, you often have to wait a long time in line while folks with chip cards make automated purchases almost instantly. Fortunately, the problem is easing, so if you're heading out of the country later this year, you stand a much better chance of getting a chip card. ...read more»

Bags lined up for departure (Photo: iStockphoto/Vera Bogaerts)

United Airlines is emulating rival American in featuring a baggage-delivery service at your arrival airport. Although you have to get your bags to the departure airport and check them by yourself, when you arrive at your destination airport, you hand your bags over to a delivery representative and go past the baggage claim to your hotel, office, or other local destination, where a local service delivers your bags.

The fine print: United says it already offers the service at Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, and Orlando, and it will be available at 190 domestic airports "over the next few months." Delivery service is available to addresses within a 100-mile radius of each airport, with expected baggage arrival within four to six hours after your flight's arrival, depending on the distance. The standard rate for delivery within a 40-mile radius is $29.95 for one bag, $39.95 for two, and $49.95 for three to eight bags. Delivery beyond 40 miles is at extra cost depending on distance. To arrange the service, indicate whether you want it when you reserve or later, and a link on the airline's website will direct you to BagsVIP, the outfit that does the actual schlepping. ...read more»

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