Globe Passport Plane Ticket (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

Following is our regular summary of the latest travel news and best frequent traveler promotions reviewed during the past week.

If it was a good deal—or a notably bad deal—from an airline, hotel, or car rental loyalty program, you can read all about it here, and plan your travel accordingly.

Why the Texas AG Opposes American's Merger

The staunchly pro-business Texas Attorney General is one of six state attorneys joining the Justice department in opposing the American-US Air merger. Here he explains why. ...read more»

Texas state flag (Photo: Duncan Walker, iStockPhoto.com

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is no fan of Big Government. As he proudly declares, "My history of taking on the Department of Justice is well documented. I have sued the Obama administration about 28 times and have repeatedly battled against overreaching actions by the federal government."

Yet he was one of six state attorney generals who joined the Department of Justice in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday to block the proposed merger between American, which is headquartered in his home state, and US Airways....read more»

Couple: Flirting in a Plane (Photo: Thinkstock/Purestock)

What could be more romantic than long airport lines and a TSA pat-down? It seems one couple was feeling so "in the mood" after the sexy airport experience that they couldn't even make it through a 90-minute flight without having to get intimate, much to the horror of the other passengers trapped on-board with them. Fox 12 News reports that Christopher Martin and Jessica Stroble were arrested after getting off (literally) a flight from Medford, Oregon, to Las Vegas....read more»

Photo: Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau

Ah, the beach. The scent of salty ocean, sunscreen, and tobacco from nearby smokers. Starting next year, beach-goers on one island will no longer have to breathe in smoke at the beach—Honolulu's mayor Kirk Caldwell has just signed two bills that ban smoking on beaches and in other public outdoor places on Hawaii's Oahu island. These bills add to the current laws against smoking indoors or within 20 feet of entrances to public places....read more»

American tail fin with airport in background (Photo: Clark County Department of Aviation)

In a conference call yesterday with three lawyers representing American and US Airways, the two airlines laid out their strategy for fighting the Department of Justice's (DOJ) suit to block their merger on antitrust grounds.

Addressing the DOJ's general complaint, the lawyers reiterated three assertions that have been made repeatedly by the two airlines' top executives over the past few months:

  • The merger would provide consumer benefits, notably more routes.
  • The merger would be pro-competitive, putting American in a position to compete with Delta and United.
  • There is no pricing coordination or collusion in the industry. Evidence cited: Thousands of fares change daily.

The legal team expressed confidence in their case, naturally, and said they are "looking forward with confidence toward our day in court."...read more»

Delta's BusinessElite cabin (Photo: Delta Air Lines photography)

Delta has a problem with award availability.

For two consecutive years, Delta was ranked last among U.S. airlines in the annual IdeaWorks study of award availability. Other reports confirm those findings, as do complaints from Delta customers.

So it was dispiriting for Delta loyalists to learn of two new policy changes announced this week that will further devalue the SkyMiles program.

For travel on or after June 1, 2014, SkyMiles members will pay more miles for business-class award tickets on some key routes. Examples:...read more»

Air: Reflecting Plane (Photo: Shutterstock/potowizard)

As you've no doubt seen by now, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it plans to oppose the merger between American and US Airways. Once viewed as a certainly, the merger has been relegated back to "maybe" status.  Reactions from key players in the airline industry have tended to follow four basic threads:

Surprise: No matter what side they're on, just about everyone was taken by surprise. A typical reaction: "If they allowed Delta-Northwest and Continental-United, how can they possibly disapprove of this one?"...read more»

(Photo: Mashpi Lodge's Cloud Forest Sky Bike)

 

Fresh off the white-knuckle drive from Ecuador's historic capital of Quito to its newest luxury eco-lodge, you could be forgiven for thinking you've just stumbled onto a real-world Jurassic Park.

The only way to reach Mashpi Lodge is via a razor's edge road that twists through the Andes Mountains, eye-level with the clouds. The impressive gates that greet your arrival are 10 feet tall and cut from thick bamboo. And the giant jungle flora, exotic and colorful, looks like it was plucked straight from the cretaceous period.

It's enough to make you wonder if something really did survive Steven Spielberg's proverbial lost world.

But what Mashpi represents is another kind of lost world altogether. A self-described "luxury cocoon in the clouds," Mashpi is a unique hybrid among eco-destination properties: part five-star hotel, part forest hideaway, and part scientific research station. It's a place where numerous rare South American species are slowly returning to the safety of a 3,212-acre protected biosphere that sits inside an even bigger 42,000-acre reserve. Guests come to experience this biodiversity hot spot up close and in comfort. The lodge's resident biologists and researchers come to study the reserve's abundance of unique wildlife....read more»

American Airlines aircraft tail (Photo: American Airlines)

Bob Crandall is one of the smartest guys ever to manage an airline. (And no, I don't consider "smart airline manager" to be an oxymoron.)

As an airline manager myself during the 80s and 90s, I watched Crandall push American to the forefront of world aviation, with innovations in operations, pricing, and marketing that remain industry standards today. Whenever he spoke at industry events or gave media interviews, I listened.

So it was with considerable interest that I tuned in to the Bloomberg interview with him following the announcement that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had filed suit to block the merger of his former company, American, with US Airways.

Predictably, Crandall excoriates the DOJ for what he considers a wrongheaded intrusion into the workings of the free market. "The government has it exactly backwards. If you want more competition, you don't cut off the challenger's legs before he gets in the ring."...read more»

Renting a car on vacation (Photo: IndexOpen)

Traveler VC rented a car in Europe through AutoEurope, supplied by Europcar. As other writers and I have long advocated, he relied on credit-card collision coverage rather than paying the rental company's outrageously overpriced collision damage waiver (CDW). Because he declined the CDW, the rental agent had him sign a credit card chit for €400 (about $500) as a "hold" against possible damage. ...read more»

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