Luggage on the belt (Photo: Index Open)

The current headlines—the downing of Malaysia flight 17 and the Israeli-Gaza hostilities—focus a spotlight on today's travel uncertainties. And that, in turn, raises the question of how travel insurance would help you in coping with the fallout from these problems. The short answer is that trip-interruption/trip-cancellation insurance (TCI) might not help as much as you might hope, or think.

The most serious threat to tourism at the moment is Israel, and even though not many of you are considering a visit to Gaza, the situation on the ground is that rockets from Gaza can reach some of the primary tourist areas. Unfortunately, however, TCI is not likely to cover cancellation expenses. TCI is "named peril" insurance, meaning it pays off only in circumstances specifically included in the contract. But virtually all policies specifically exclude "war, declared or undeclared, or any act thereof" as a named peril, and insurers are likely to see the current situation as an undeclared war. ... read more»

Miles & Points (Photo: Shutterstock)

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.

Are Pigs Treated Better Than Coach Passengers?

Is a pig on the way to the slaughterhouse more comfortable than the typical coach-class airline passenger? Arguably, yes. ... read more»

Silhouette of Businesswoman Waiting at Airport (Photo:

The online travel agencies already boast competitive prices, plenty of inventory, and solid if not flashy user interfaces. So it's no mystery why the latest battle for the hearts and minds of travel consumers is taking place in the arena of loyalty programs.

We've recently seen loyalty program enhancements from Expedia and Orbitz, signaling their conviction that differentiation, loyalty, and profitability go hand in hand. ... read more»

(Photo: Hopper)

If you're a procrastinator, outlaw, or the best long-distance boyfriend ever, you should download Flight Tonight to book your next vacation, incognito location, or surprise visit to buy and fly that day.

... read more»
(Photo: InCase)

What Is it: The EO Travel Backpack by Incase.

Price and Where to Buy: $179.95 on Amazon and on Incase's website. ... read more»

(Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

The TSA is willing to pay big bucks for smart ideas. If you can design a better security-queue system, they're willing to pony up $15,000 in cash. ... read more»

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Longtime points chasers will recall, wistfully, a time when a hotel chain's "systemwide promotion" was just that: systemwide. In other words, stays at any and all properties in that hotel company's network would count toward earning whatever the bonus happened to be.

Over the past few years, however, the trend has been toward increasing numbers of individual hotels' opting out of their brands' network marketing initiatives. The reason: simple economics. Many branded hotels are independently owned and operated, and if business is brisk, they may see no need to incur the extra expense associated with special promotions.

The hotel chains' marketers, meanwhile, continue to advertise the promotions as if they applied network-wide, with an asterisk and a link to a webpage listing those hotels that have elected not to participate. ... read more»

Airplane Wing Over Skyline (Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Pity not the airlines.

This week, most U.S. airlines announced their operational and financial results for the second quarter. And they were nothing short of record breaking.

American reported net income of $864 million. But if merger-related expenses aren't counted, the airline's profit for the quarter would be $1.5 billion, its best ever.

In a wild swing from its previous quarter's $609 million loss, United managed a record profit of $789 million for the latest quarter. ... read more»

Airport security check sign (Photo: Finn)

The great majority of American travelers will never suffer the effects of having their names included on the federal government's watch list of known or suspected terrorists. Air travel is stressful enough without the added worry of being subjected to "enhanced" airport security screenings and possibly being prohibited from flying altogether.

But it's a seemingly inevitable byproduct of the anti-terrorism security apparatus that the names of many ordinary citizens find their way onto the list. And that has raised questions about what, exactly, are the criteria for inclusion on a list of could-be terrorists. ... read more»

If pigs could fly ... well, they might have it better than humans flying in coach.

Pigs on a truck are probably on their way to the slaughterhouse. For humans on a plane, shoehorned into coach seats, it just feels that way.

According to the American Meat Institute's "Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines & Audit Guide: a Systematic Approach to Animal Welfare," a swine or sow weighing 200 pounds should be allocated 4 square feet of space when being transported by truck during the summer months. (Although the guidelines are for travel by ground, they would presumably apply as well in the unlikely event that pigs were flown rather than trucked.) ... read more»

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