Las Vegas

Hottest Summer Destinations for 2014

Posted April 23, 2014 by


Turn up the heat on your vacation plans this summer in a destination that beckons with new and standout reasons to visit. Even the chilliest spots on this list will be hot this summer with new traveler-friendly events, openings, and airline service. Whether you're looking for some natural splendor, a 24-hour urban scene, or a simple patch of white-sand bliss, you'll be able to find it in these dazzling destinations.



Brazil is set to be the center of the sports universe this summer as host of the FIFA World Cup, which will welcome teams from 32 countries around the world. With more than 2.5 million tickets already in circulation for matches in cities around the country, the world will be cheering in Brazil between June 12 and July 13.



Domestic low-cost giant Southwest has gotten its passport and is heading to the beach. This summer, it will launch its first international flights, with service to Jamaica from Atlanta, Baltimore, and Orlando starting in July. JetBlue is also expanding its Jamaica service just in time for summer, with new flights from Ft. Lauderdale to Montego Bay.


Las Vegas, Nevada

Heat rises, and this summer, you can survey already-smoking-hot Las Vegas from on high in the city's latest supersized novelty, the High Roller Ferris wheel. Staking a claim as the world's tallest, the 550-foot-tall observation wheel supports 28 individual pods that can each hold up to 40 people. The views are most spectacular at night, when the Strip sparkles below. And, this being Vegas, you can buy your drinks at the bottom and bring them with you on your journey to the sky and back.



Last December, we named Belgium a destination to watch in 2014. And this August, it will become clear why, as the country—and the world—marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. More than 2 million travelers are expected to pay tribute at Belgium's many battle sites. The new Bastogne War Museum just opened last month and will host a variety of centennial events in the coming years.


Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

In these ancient mountains that teem with constant springs of new life, a hundred years seems like both a blip and an eternity. This year, Rocky Mountain National Park turns 100 years old, and visitors can celebrate nature and conservation at its finest by taking part in picnics, night hikes, art exhibits, and more. Centennial events kick off in early September and stretch into 2015, so even if you miss the opening festivities, you'll still have plenty of time to join the celebration.


Umea, Sweden

Umea brings a new twist to its Capital of Culture designation this summer with hundreds of cultural events and nearly 24-hour daylight around the summer solstice. Highlights of the summer season include U x U, a crowd-funded music festival, as well as an outdoor staging of Strauss' opera Elektra.


Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is looking to the future by celebrating the past this summer. Its modern reimagining of the classic streetcar will debut in late spring or early summer, with 12 stops connecting Centennial Olympic Park, downtown Atlanta, Georgia State University, and the historic Sweet Auburn District. And in May, downtown Atlanta's new National Center for Civil and Human Rights museum will welcome the public for the first time.



Along with Jamaica, Aruba will be one of Southwest's first international destinations. In July, the domestic-until-now low-cost carrier will kick off service between Aruba and Atlanta, Baltimore, and Orlando. And the timing is perfect—since Aruba sits outside the traditional "hurricane belt," Caribbean summer travel to this island is unlikely to be hampered by challenging weather.


Glasgow, Scotland

Brazil isn't the only country that's got game this summer. Glasgow is gearing up to host the XX Commonwealth Games, an event that draws participants and spectators from a number of countries around the world. Featuring 17 events, including aquatics, gymnastics, triathlon, and table tennis, the XX Commonwealth Games kicks off on July 23 and runs through August 3.



A man, a plan, a canal: Panama! The engineering marvel that inspired the palindrome turns 100 on August 15, and Panama is gearing up to celebrate. Throughout the year, a number of cruise lines are offering special canal crossings or partial crossings, and day tours by providers such as Panama Canal Tours will be offered all summer. The Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo, which is visible from the entrance to the canal, will also likely open this summer. And the expansion project continues: By 2015, larger ships may be able to access the canal.


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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Hottest Summer Destinations for 2014. 

 Follow Christine Sarkis on Google+ or email her at at

Best Free Attractions in Las Vegas

Posted September 11, 2013 by


We know, we know: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But if you're not savvy, this can include the contents of your wallet, checking account, and 401(k).

While accommodations come cheap in Sin City, expensive attractions ($14 to ride a roller coaster) and overpriced shows ($200 a pop) can eat up your budget and leave you with nothing. Don't break the bank on your Sin City trip. Here are 10 totally free attractions to discover in Las Vegas instead.


Fountains and Conservatory & Botanical Gardens at Bellagio

This watery attraction pops up in just about every Vegas movie ever made, including the iconic ending to Ocean's Eleven. Create your own crime caper or rom-com ending and catch the Fountains of Bellagio in action; the free show plays every 15 minutes or every half hour, depending on the time of day. Thrillingly synced to pop and classical music, hundreds of separate fountains and water features shoot up into the air with the Italianate hotel facade as their stunning backdrop. When you've had your fountain fill, take a leisurely stroll through Bellagio's Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, where horticulturalists maintain an ever-changing array of florals, gazebos, bridges, and ponds. The gardens are also free for visitors and provide a nice respite from the relentless desert sun.


Fremont Street Experience

Equal parts mall, concert venue, and light show, the Fremont Street Experience takes everything that Vegas is known for (glitter, lights, and gambling) and rolls it into one five-block area. The main attraction here is a barrel vault canopy aglow with 12.5 million LED lights that lead pedestrians to vintage casinos such as the Golden Nugget and the Four Queens. Guests can also enjoy free concerts from hard-rocking headliners (Fuel, Lit, Third Eye Blind, etc.) all summer long.


P3Studio At The Cosmopolitan Of Las Vegas

And you thought Las Vegas had no culture. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has amassed one of the most exclusive art collections in the country, providing a highbrow break from the Strip's bare skin and penny slots. In its posh third-floor P3Studio, The Cosmopolitan displays, commissions, and sells works by a rotating cadre of well-known artists in residence (think David LaChapelle and the toy retailer Kidrobot). You won't need a wallet, but bring your imagination—these decidedly modern exhibitions are free. Afterward, take a spin around The Cosmopolitan's public spaces and exterior for new-media installations by Yoko Ono, T.J. Wilcox, and other big names in digital art.


CBS Television City Research Center at MGM Grand

You might not be a network exec, but you can still have your voice heard. At the CBS Television City Research Center at MGM Grand, you can sample brand-new TV shows and opine on potential pilots during free hour-long screenings. Pick up a ticket between 10 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. and head into one of the studios to sample program offerings by CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, and other Viacom-owned channels. Register your opinion on a test monitor and consider yourself part of television history before returning to your regularly scheduled vacation.


Circus Acts at Circus Circus Las Vegas

This family-approved spot on the Strip has long entertained guests with its Carnival Midway and countless circus acts. In fact, the resort contains the largest permanent circus in the world. A rotating cast of jugglers, acrobats, aerialists, and roller-skating stuntmen delights kids of every age (and the cash-strapped parents toting their new carnival prizes). Cap off the entertainment with a rousing show from Circus Circus' resident clowns, Dave, Huel, Tonya, and Scotty, on the Midway's main stage or at the adjoining Adventuredome. Let the fact that all this entertainment is free assuage any lingering clown phobia.


Wildlife Habitat at Flamingo Las Vegas

You'll likely encounter a variety of colorful creatures on the Las Vegas Strip, from partying bachelorettes with questionably shaped but anatomically correct lollipops to celebrities on their baddest behavior. Catch a glimpse of a different kind of flamboyance at Flamingo Las Vegas, with its habitat chock-full of the pink-hued birds. A flock (actually called a flamboyance) of Chilean flamingos is on view at the complimentary exhibit, which also features an array of swans, ducks, koi fish, and turtles who live among the foliage and waterfalls. The habitat is located next to the pool area and is open to guests and non-guests alike.


Volcano at The Mirage

Well, this spot has really blown up. With a soundtrack by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, this heart-pounding audio/visual attraction at the Polynesian-themed Mirage spews fire into the Vegas air beginning at 7 p.m. every night. The smoke that the volcano spouts more than 100 feet above the water is actually perfumed with a pleasant pina colada scent (to cover up the odor of natural gas). The spectacle rivals the well-known fountains at Bellagio, just a half mile up the Strip.


Pinball Hall of Fame

This nonprofit please-touch museum is actually the world's largest pinball-machine collection. In 10,000 square feet of space, find an assortment of more than 200 pinball machines and arcade games from a half century of gaming history. And every game is playable—including an original Ms. Pac-Man from 1981 and Super Mario Bros. from 1985, plus the wooden 1947 Heavy Hitter. Admission is free, although the games are coin-op (25 or 50 cents per play). Just arm yourself with the knowledge that all excess revenue goes to charity. Who knew doing good could feel like such good old-fashioned fun?


Aquarium at Silverton Casino

The only sting here is from jellyfish. Consistently ranked one of the top free attractions in Las Vegas, the massive saltwater aquarium in Silverton Casino will transport you from the parched desert to a vast tropical oasis. Around 117,000 gallons of saltwater house 4,000-some fish and reef plants as well as six species of shark and stingray. Interactive feeding demonstrations and a mermaid show round out the offerings, while the hotel's colossal Bass Pro Shops outpost has more tanks to explore—and Olympic-level window-shopping to undertake.


This article was originally published by under the title Best Free Attractions in Las Vegas

Follow Dara Continenza on Google+ or email her at


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Check Out a Few Newer Luxuries in Las Vegas

Posted August 27, 2009 by Kate Hamman

NV-LasVegas-Palazzo-DEF Among the neon lights and dizzying advertisements, the old classics and popular favorites grab your eye in Las Vegas. However, there's always something on the horizon in Sin City and some of the newer additions can offer a heady dose of fun. Come discover a hotel that offers luxury for less in its decked-out suites before you dine on classic and affordable burgers at a hip restaurant. And as the sun sets over the strip, watch the nightlife sizzle as you sip cocktails at a "boutique club."

Palazzo Las Vegas: The first casino to be built on the strip in nearly three years, the Palazzo will wow you with its luxurious suites, upscale shopping, and over-the-top decor. This sister property to the Venetian takes the Italian theme to new heights, featuring high ceilings, marble sculptures, and stained glass windows. Each suite comes equipped with remote-controlled Roman shades, flat-screen televisions, and king-sized beds. Suites offer affordable luxury, starting at $189 per night during the low season.

BLT Burger: In Vegas' sea of fine dining and high prices, sometimes you just need a good old-fashioned hamburger. BLT Burger's first Vegas location at the Mirage will satisfy your craving for classic American comfort food with top-notch burgers and a slew of milkshakes (some spiked). Plus, if you want to wander away from the mainstream, you can try one of the lamb, salmon, or turkey burgers. Burgers start at just $10. 

Blush at the Wynn Las Vegas: Blush has combined a lounge atmosphere with a nightclub ambience, creating an ideal place to start the evening with cocktails and end it on the dance floor. Sit under paper lanterns and enjoy one of the club's signature drinks, such as the pair-a-dice martini, a pear liqueur concoction. Please note that a cover charge may apply.

To search for flights and compare prices to Las Vegas, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau)

Companies Put the Kibosh on Business Travel … Thanks, AIG!

Posted April 10, 2009 by Katie Blais

Kurumsal_cozumler1_formatted In a former job I traveled a lot. Sadly, it was a start-up company with a next-to-nothing travel budget, so my lavish accommodations consisted of an air mattress on the floor of my brother’s studio apartment in Brooklyn. Many companies though, with much loftier cash flows than my previous employer, are feeling the effects of the AIG fallout. Which means closer attention to the company-sanctioned high-roller lifestyles many higher-ups are accustomed to, and an easy target is travel budgets and expenses.

With millions of Americans losing their jobs and the economy in the toilet, it is just a tad annoying to hear about big-wigs taking private jets or getting thousand-dollar spa treatments during their last “company retreat” Seeing the backlash AIG has suffered, many other companies are erring on the side of caution and cutting back on travel budgets before they too are publicly scorned—sad news for said big-wigs and even sadder news for the travel industry.  U.S companies are canceling up to $1 billion worth of corporate travel during 2009 and hotels are feeling the crunch. In Las Vegas, a hot spot for conventions and corporate events, bookings are way down.  During February alone hotels in L.A. lost events that could have filled 95,000 hotel rooms, and there are only so many celebs seeking refuge in the Chateau Marmont, you know? 

Even when companies do hold events, their budgets have shrunk, which means, fewer open bars, less gourmet food and less money for the service industry—which in the past few years has been on overdrive adding amenities to attract the lucrative business traveler, building spas, hot restaurants, and bars at their properties. 

Extravagant lifestyles are slowly becoming a thing of the past across the board, so don’t be surprised if you see more suits on your next cheap flight.

Here’s hoping CEOs have brothers in Brooklyn with air mattresses! 


Study Shows People prefer Atlantic City to Las Vegas

Posted April 29, 2008 by Carl Unger

Look at the calendar, my friends—it ain't April Fool's Day.  A Market Metrix survey of 35,000 combined visitors to both cities shows that people prefer Atlantic City to Las Vegas, albeit by a slim margin.  A.C. edged out Sin City in overall customer satisfaction, as well as "emotion scores," which measure seemingly unquantifiable attributes such as how sophisticated and hip/cool each city is.  Atlantic City was considered to be a far greater value, which is probably the source of most of its appeal.Llnj956_2

I can't help but feel a little befuddled here.  I grew up in Jersey, and I've been to Atlantic City a number of times, though admittedly not in years.  I recall, however, a prevailing feeling of shabbiness, and what I remember most is seeing bus after bus unloading retirees from the northern suburbs.  Not exactly hip and cool, right? Vegas, on the other hand, is a nonstop circus of over-the-top debauchery and glamour, even if the latter is mostly superficial.

That said, Atlantic City has changed a great deal in the past five or seven years.  New hotels such as the Borgata have classed up the place, bringing in celebrity chefs and popular acts like Sheryl Crow and Eric Clapton (and Paul Anka, but who's counting?).  Conversely, Vegas is creeping toward overkill (which, for Vegas, is saying a lot), with mega-hotel after mega-hotel rising up like a bad poker player's debt.

I turn to you, my fair readers, for some insight here.  Help a lost blogger make sense of this.  Is Atlantic City, tucked away in stinky (but loveable) New Jersey, really preferable to the glitzy, elegant, celebrity-magnet kingdom of Las Vegas?  Post your comments below!

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The World's Top 10 Vertigo-Inducing Attractions

Posted April 3, 2008 by Zak Patten

If you're a traveler like me, your typical vacation will include a trip up to a scenic lookout where you're likely to have the best view of the place you're visiting. And if you're a big wuss like me, as soon as you get to the most scenic vantage point, your knees will start wobbling and you'll grip the handrail with vise-like intensity/strength, thinking, "I could've gotten this view from a postcard in the lobby!" For those of you who like the idea (if not necessarily the reality) of a great view, I've put together the following list of 10 attractions, each of which is extremely nosebleed-friendly.

10. The CN Tower

The CN Tower is 553 meters tall, which is a Canadian way of saying 1,815 feet off the ground. Technically, it's the "tallest free-standing structure on land," but that just means it's not a place where people live or work. Which is just fine by me, because I have absolutely no interest in living or working anyplace higher than my third-floor bedroom or fourth-floor office. The CN Tower was completed in 1973 and is used primarily for TV and radio broadcasts, as well as tourism. Fans of 1940s music will be dismayed to learn that there is no AM antenna on the Tower.

Overcompensate much?

9. The Jungfraujoch Railway Station

What do you get when you cross the Swiss Alps with Europe's love of passenger trains? The Jungfraujoch railway station, which is 11,333 feet above sea level. Okay, that's not much of a joke, but the Swiss aren't known for their sense of humor (kidding!). So once you've made this hair-raising train trip to the top of the world, what can you do besides gorging on Swiss chocolate and fondue? How about checking out an Ice Palace or a ski and snowboard park that's only open in the summer?

om nom nom

8. Mt. Kilimanjaro

For number eight, let's take this a notch higher. It's true that Mt. Kilimanjaro makes the Alps look puny. But with a summit of 19,340 feet, Africa's tallest peak is actually accessible enough for real people to climb, sans oxygen tanks. Of course that's not to say it's an easy task, especially if you're the type who favors the escalator to the stairs.

Floor 5895: Neon hiking gear and ridiculous hats

7. London Eye

Coming back a little closer to earth, the London Eye is essentially a big ol' Ferris wheel. If that doesn't wow you, consider that the 443-foot-tall ride was the tallest of its kind when it opened in 2000. If you want to make your visit more upscale, you can purchase a glass of Champagne for an additional £30. I think I'll pass on the pricey drink. I'll be happy just to hold down my lunch while in one of the pods.


6. Singapore Flyer

With about 100 more vertical feet than the London Eye, The Singapore Flyer took the role of world's highest Ferris wheel when it opened this month. One of the coolest things about the Flyer is its taxi-driver promotion, which currently awards all cabbies a free ride. I guess the idea is they'll be so taken with their trip that they won't be able to stop talking up the attraction to their customers. I'm assuming they're not trying to recruit the drivers to be "pod pilots." Just one warning to those who do take the Flyer: Don't write your name in your cabin. They're not big fans of graffiti in Singapore.

Never Forget: Michael P. Fay

5. The Top of the Rock

The Empire State Building is great, but it's soooo 20th century. For the latest in Big Apple views, you gotta hit the Top of the Rock. The "Rock" in question is Rockefeller Center, and while its 850-foot-high observation deck doesn't reach the Empire State Building's height, , this deck affords a much better view of the ESB than you'll get when you're standing on the building itself. Oh, and our sister site TripAdvisor's users rank the Top of the Rock number one of 1,296 New York City attractions. 'Nuff said.

Hey, is that Tina Fey? Let's not forget her either.

4. La Paz

Just about any spot in La Paz, Bolivia, the world's highest capital city, can make the most grounded person feel as if his head is in the clouds. At 11,942 feet in elevation, La Paz is an attraction in itself. If you go, make sure you're prepared for the altitude. You can take a medicine such as Diamox, or just chew some coca leaves like the locals. La Paz's Museum of the Coca Plant is the place to learn more about the coca leaf and all its interesting uses.

im in ur bolivia sniffin ur cokez

3. The Edge

It might be in Melbourne, Australia, but there is nothing "Down Under" about The Edge, a glass cube that juts out of the Eureka Tower, which at 975 feet is the world's tallest residential building. The worst … er, best part of it all is that The Edge doesn't just sit there like all the other observation decks. No, you get in and it physically moves outward until you're hanging out with nothing between you and a long fall but some chintzy glass panel. 

Hello, Hello. I'm at a place called Vertigo.

2. Taipei 101

The Taipei 101 is currently the world's tallest building at a height of 1,670 feet, though the Burj Dubai is set to overtake that record when it officially opens. At that height, I'm really not interested in which one is taller, but rather how the hell I can get down safely. What I think is coolest about the 101 is not just its height, but how big it is relative to the buildings around it. It's as if former NBA big man Manute Bol decided to show up and play pickup hoops with you and your friends. Basically, the Taipei 101 doesn't care about its neighboring skyscrapers—it's going to dunk on their asses.

Manute enlarged to show texture.

1. Insanity, the Ride

Which brings us to number one. Yes, Insanity, the Ride, at Las Vegas' Stratosphere, is not only the most vertigo-inducing attraction in the world, it's probably the most wetting-your-pants/barfing-your-guts-out one as well. The casino-hotel stands 1,149 feet above The Strip, which is what you'll be gaping down at as you are spun at three-Gs by a "massive mechanical arm" extended 64 feet out from the building. I can barely even look at the picture below without feeling queasy.

Serving suggestion, some assembly required, ManuteBucketTM not included.

Jessica Simpson Nabs Posh Pad in Sin City

Posted March 21, 2008 by Heather Gilbert

What do Jessica Simpson, Hulk Hogan and Eminem have in common?  They’re neighbors, silly! Simpson recently closed on a 1,200-square-foot condo in the posh Palms Place Las Vegas .  Her new love nest (hello, Tony Romo) features a marble bath big enough to live in, the requisite hardwood floors and plasma TVs, and multiple balconies from which to observe the commoners roaming The Strip below.  And not that Tony Romo needs to be jealous of Nick Lachey, but this condo was originally purchased by the then-married couple. It ended up in Jessica’s possession in their divorce settlement.  But seeing as Jessica reportedly hasn’t seen the condo yet, it’s not as if Tony has to worry about Jessica and Nick’s memories of the place.

The Drift Spa, one of the many amenities of the Palms Palace, should keep Ms. Simpson busy.  It is the exclusive Vegas home of celeb-favorite Sunset Tan, after all.  And if she doesn’t feel like venturing out for dinner, the Palace does offer 24-hour room service.  Now if they can just figure out if Jessica prefers chicken or fish, they’ll be a step ahead of the game. 

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Trump Towers Set to Loom Over Las Vegas

Posted March 19, 2008 by Zak Patten

Trumphairweb_3 With the opening of the Trump International Hotel & Tower Las Vegas this month (reservations are available beginning March 31), Sin City has yet another behemoth property and the famously coiffed Donald Trump has one more reason to shoot his mouth off. To find out more, I decided to comb over the hotel's website.

Turns out, the "Tower" is actually two towers, or will be once the second is built. The two structures have the same number of rooms (OK, OK, Tower I has 1,282 compared to just 1,280 in Tower II, but let's not split hairs). According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, this new project is all about luxury: "floor-to-ceiling windows, kitchens with granite countertops, marble floors in entries and baths, vanities with marble countertops, spa tubs in master baths, owner's lockout closets, and mirrors with embedded TVs." And though The Donald is clearly a fan of rugs, there's no mention of carpeting.

All of this opulence seems fitting for Trump, whose mane focus seems to be convincing America what a classy guy he is. Perhaps another good way for him to get his message out would be to pump The Apprentice to the cardio machines with built-in televisions, a staple of the Technogym health club.

That might be just enough to make me wig out.

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High-speed Train Would Whisk Travelers between False Realities

Posted March 18, 2008 by Carl Unger

Maglevweb Scientists have long theorized that black holes may actually defy the space-time continuum by linking parallel dimensions with one another.  One might even say that black holes are like high-speed train lines through space-time.

A fair number of us non-scientists have likewise long believed that Las Vegas and Disneyland are alternate dimensions, so it makes sense that a high-speed train line would one day link the two.  In fact, there are now two separate plans for quick transport between these false realities.  On one hand, we have a futuristic, extremely expensive (and therefore the obvious choice) MagLev train.  On the other hand, there’s a far less exciting, more economical (read: bor-ing) DesertXPress train.  Come on, a super-fast train that travels 300 miles per hour and runs on magnets?  And it would cost $12 billion?  Survey says: yes.

However, the real challenge of traveling through the fabric of space-time or between alternate realities concerns the folks on board.  Those of you who've seen this season of Lost know well that time/dimension traveling is not pretty.  If you haven’t been watching, I’ll sum up: You get a wicked nosebleed and die.

So how will train operators keep passengers’ brains from exploding?  How will they maintain the false reality that’s sold at either end of the line?

Maybe they’ll replace windows with flat-panel TVs and display weird landscapes passing by (“Hey, we’re under the sea—oh look, now we’re on Mars!”).  Maybe passengers will sleep in little pods so they don’t even realize they're traveling.  Maybe they'll just have an open bar, who knows?

Whatever you do, make sure you have a constant, okay?

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Northwest Profiting off Misery and Sin?

Posted March 7, 2008 by

Escape_from_ny BookingBuddy is home to some big-time data geeks.  While digging through our proprietary data and correlating it with some external studies, we’ve discovered something very interesting: Northwest Airlines appears to be profiting off misery and sin!  More specifically, they’re profiting off of miserable people fleeing Detroit (not unlike Snake Pliskin fleeing the Big Apple in Escape from New York) for the temptations of Sin City, Las Vegas.

How did we come to this conclusion?

  1. Forbes recently released a nigh-indisputable study featuring a “Misery Index” indicating Detroit was America’s most miserable city;
  2. Detroit to Las Vegas is currently one of the most-searched routes in all of Booking Buddy land (number one in January 2008);
  3. The most recently released set of data from the US Department of Transportation, Office of Aviation Analysis, clearly states that Northwest is the biggest airline for this route with 46 percent market share.

Ergo, Northwest is profiting off misery and sin. 

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