Regional News - North America.

 
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New York (AirGuide - Regional News North America) Jan 22, 2012

AAA Showcases Additions to 2012 Five Diamond Hotel & Restaurant List AAA unveiled its annual list of 126 lodgings and 53 restaurants that have earned the AAA/CAA Five Diamond Award designation for 2012. Of the 16 new additions for 2012 are first-ever Five Diamond establishments for Rhode Island and Antigua. In the restaurant category, not surprisingly New York tops the list for growth with three new Five Diamond establishments. California is the only state to grow in both categories, with two new hotels and one restaurant. Over the past year, perhaps reflecting changing tastes in upscale eating, eight Five Diamond restaurants closed their doors, at least temporarily. OThis 15 percent drop illustrates the speed at which the concept of luxury dining is shifting in response to the economy, changing diner preferences and a corporate redefining of acceptable luxury levels for business reimbursement,O said Michael Petrone, director of AAA Tourism Information Development. OToday the service style is more casual, with a greater focus on providing a high-quality, individualized, value-focused experience. The addition of seven Five Diamond restaurants reflects the rebound that began for this segment during the latter half of 2011.O AAA's professional inspectors also noted other changes in store for 2012. For hotels, a prevalent trend is creating a home-away-from-home environment, according to AAA inspectors. Another growth area is "smarter" hotel rooms that learn guests' habits as they use a central remote to control everything from heating and air to lights, curtains, music and wakeup calls. In the restaurant industry, prevailing themes include more natural ingredients, locally sourced foods and healthier meal options. New Five Diamond lodgings include: ARIA Sky Suites, Las Vegas, Nev.; The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, S.C.; Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort, Jumby Bay, Antigua; Mandarin Oriental, Miami, Fla.; Montage Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills, Calif.; Ocean House, Watch Hill, R.I.; The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Calif.; The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and The St. Regis Houston, Houston, Texas. New Five Diamond restaurants include Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Tarrytown, N.Y.; Del Posto, New York, N.Y.; Herons Restaurant, Cary, N.C. (in the Umstead Hotel & Spa; The Kitchen Restaurant, Sacramento, Calif.; Marea, New York, N.Y.; Menton, Boston, Mass.; Restaurant Initiale, Quebec, Canada Three hotels have maintained the Five Diamond Rating for 36 consecutive years [ETH] since 1976 when AAA first introduced the Diamond Ratings for accommodations: The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., and JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz. The restaurant with the longest Five Diamond tenure, 24 consecutive years, since 1988, is The Inn at Little Washington Dining Room in Washington, Va. For a complete list of Five Diamond hotels and restaurants, click on AAA Five Diamond List. Jan 20, 2012

DOT Considers Requiring Airlines to Display Ancillary Fees in GDS The Department of Transportation is continuing to work on new consumer protection rules. In the next round, the DOT is asking if it should require carriers to display ancillary fees in the GDS channel. ThatOs important, according to John Pittman, director of industry affairs for ASTA, because travel agent access to content is becoming increasingly fragmented. Consumers are being asked by airlines to go directly to the airline for things such as preferred seating, Pittman said in a webinar about DOT consumer protection rules and what they mean for the way agencies do business. ASTA is hoping that in the next round of rule making, now scheduled for August, that the DOT will require airlines to not only make ancillary fee information available in the GDS but also make it transactable through the agency. In addition, the DOT is also asking if minimum service standards should be set for travel agencies, just as there are such standards for airlines. It is also asking if it should require disclosure of airlines that agencies sell or donOt sell or if travel agencies should reveal incentives they receive for selling airlines. And, the DOT is also asking if agencies should disclose preferential displays of individual fares or of airlines in agencyOs Internet displays. Jan 20, 2012

Guide to booking a round-the-world trip It's the ultimate trip: circumnavigating the planet, and stopping off wherever takes your fancy. Great for travelers who want to see it all, or who are just plain indecisive. But booking a round-the-world (RTW) trip can be a complex business. Here's our guide to getting started. How to do it The most economical way to circumnavigate is to buy a round-the-world air ticket that uses one airline alliance. Theoretically, any routing is possible, but knowing how the RTW booking system works will make your trip cheaper. For example, the Star Alliance, a coalition of 27 airlines, offers a RTW ticket with a maximum of 15 stops. Its member airlines fly to 1185 airports in 185 countries. There are rules: you must follow one global direction (east or west -- no backtracking); you must start and finish in the same country; and you must book all your flights before departure, though you can change them later (which may incur extra charges). How long you need You could whip round the world in a weekend if you flew non-stop. However, the minimum duration of most RTW tickets is ten days -- still a breathless romp. Consider stock-piling annual leave, tagging on public holidays or even arranging a sabbatical in order to take off two months, ideally six to 12. The maximum duration of a RTW ticket is one year. When to go The weather will never be ideal in all your stops. So, focus on what you want to do most and research conditions there: if a Himalaya trek is your highlight, don't land in Nepal mid-monsoon; if you want to swim with whale sharks off Western Australia, be there April-July. Then accept you'll be in some regions at the "wrong" time -- though this might offer unexpected benefits (for example, Zambia in wet season means lush landscapes and cheaper prices). In general, city sightseeing can be done year-round (escape extreme heat/cold/rain in museums and cafs) but outdoor adventures are more reliant on -- and enjoyable in -- the right weather. Where to go The classic (and cheapest) RTW tickets flit between a few big cities, for example London -- Bangkok -- Singapore -- Sydney -- LA. If you want to link more offbeat hubs (Baku -- Kinshasa -- Paramaribo, anyone?), prices will climb considerably. The cost of the ticket is based on the total distance covered or the number of countries visited. Remember, you don't have to fly between each point: in Australia you could land in Perth, travel overland, and fly out of Cairns. Or fly into Moscow, board the Trans-Siberian train, and fly onwards from Beijing. Pick some personal highlights and string the rest of your itinerary around those. For instance, if you're a keen trekker, flesh out a Peru (Inca Trail), New Zealand (Milford Track) and Nepal (Everest Base Camp) itinerary with Brazil (Rio's a good access point for South America), Australia and North India. If budget's an issue, spend more time in less expensive countries. Your daily outgoings will be far higher in Western Europe and North America than South-East Asia; Indonesia, Bolivia and India are particularly cheap. Tips, tricks & pitfalls -- Talk to an expert before you book: you may have an itinerary in mind but an experienced RTW flight booker will know which routings work best and cost least -- a few tweaks could mean big savings. -- Be flexible: moving your departure date by a few days can save money; mid-week flights are generally cheaper, as are flights on Christmas Day. -- Think about internal travel: it CAN be cheaper to book internal flights at the same time as booking your RTW ticket -- but, with the global increase of low-cost airlines, you may find it better (and more flexible) to buy them separately as you go. -- Be warned: if you don't board one of your booked flights (say, on a whim, you decide to travel overland from Bangkok to Singapore rather than fly it) your airline is likely to cancel all subsequent flights. Jan 20, 2012

AIA chief Blakey: Defense investments bring greatest advances A recent New York Times article failed to fully take into account the economic benefits of the federal government's military-related research and development investments compared with those by civilian counterparts, writes Aerospace Industries Association President Marion C. Blakey in a letter to the editor. "When we directly compare, buck for buck, research and development and other investments, defense-related investments generate far more groundbreaking advances. They range from the Internet and laser eye surgery technologies to scores of our most significant technological advances like GPS and the breast-cancer vaccine just announced," she writes. Jan 20, 2012

GPS III program is under scrutiny for cuts The Air Force's GPS III program may face scale-downs or delays due to Pentagon budget cuts as defense officials look for less costly alternatives to the expensive satellite systems. Retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright says that the U.S. might consider sharing the burden of the satellites' mission with other countries or shift focus to crafting a PNT structure that doesn't rely solely on large satellites. Jan 20, 2012

TSA detected nearly 100 weapons at Dallas airport in 2011 The Transportation Security Administration last year discovered 93 weapons at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and 58 people faced charges. An airport spokesman explained that weapons such as knives, pepper spray and brass knuckles are less likely than firearms to lead to an arrest. "Those don't necessarily lead to criminal charges,"...

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