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Search for low air fares
gets more competitive

With airlines imposing fees for checked bags, priority seating and access to airport lounges, finding a good fare is just the starting point. Ticket buyers then need to check multiple websites to figure out the best deal.

Now, even that process is on the verge of change, and the impetus is coming from various directions. The airlines are looking for a bigger role in how their products are sold. Google is seeking to establish a foothold in air travel search. And new technology companies, like Hipmunk and Vayant, want to offer yet more search options.

The biggest push to change online ticket buying is coming from American Airlines, which recently announced that it wanted to bypass the central reservation systems that now deliver fare information to online travel agents like Expedia and Orbitz, and instead deliver that information directly.

Hipmunk, a new travel search engine, uses the same software from ITA as Kayak and Orbitz, but the search results are presented differently. Instead of showing a list of flights on multiple pages, it maps them based on time of day, all on one page.

“We’re acknowledging there are too many choices out there,” said Adam Goldstein ’10, who co-founded Hipmunk after graduating from MIT last summer.

Obama links expanding wireless access to economic recovery

MARQUETTE, Mich. — Declaring that “we can’t expect tomorrow’s economy to take root using yesterday’s infrastructure,” President Barack Obama traveled to this snowbound town in a remote corner of Michigan on Thursday to make the case that expanding wireless access is critical to the nation’s economic recovery.

“This isn’t just about a faster Internet or being able to find a friend on Facebook,” Obama said in a speech at Northern Michigan University here, after viewing a demonstration on long-distance learning over the Internet.

“It’s about connecting every corner of America to the digital age,” the president said. “It’s about every young person who no longer has to leave his hometown to seek new opportunity — because opportunity is right there at his or her fingertips.”

Workplaces turning to tobacco-free hiring

Smokers now face another risk from their habit: It could cost them a shot at a job.

More hospitals and medical businesses are adopting strict policies that make smoking a reason to turn away job applicants, saying they want to increase worker productivity, reduce health care costs and encourage healthier living.

The new rules essentially treat cigarettes like an illegal narcotic. Applications now explicitly warn of “tobacco-free hiring,” job seekers must submit to urine tests for nicotine and new employees caught smoking face termination.

This shift to smoker-free workplaces has prompted sharp debate, even among anti-tobacco groups, over whether the policies establish a troubling precedent of employers intruding into private lives to ban a legal habit.

“If enough of these companies adopt theses policies and it really becomes difficult for smokers to find jobs, there are going to be consequences,” said Michael Siegel, a professor at the