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Want to board first on a Southwest Airlines flight? Now you can pay $40 for the privilege to board with the "A" group. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

AIRLINES

Southwest: Fliers can pay $40 to board first

Want to board first on a Southwest Airlines flight? Now you can pay $40 for the privilege.

Southwest Airlines will let people pay to be part of their first boarding group, group "A." The airline does not have assigned seating and lets passengers board in three groups, A, B and C.

Currently, passengers can ensure they board first by buying a business-class ticket or joining a loyalty program. Now, everyone will have that option if spots are available. Passengers will be able to pay at the gate starting 45 minutes before a flight leaves.

-- Associated Press

Delta boosting rules for frequent fliers

Delta is increasing the requirements to reach top levels of frequent-flier status, a bid to restore the sense of exclusivity for its most lucrative customers.

Under the new plan, Delta will require U.S. residents who are frequent fliers to not just fly thousands of miles but also spend thousands of dollars annually on Delta tickets to reach elite levels in the SkyMiles program.

The new rule will take effect in 2014. It will require $2,500 of spending to reach Delta's silver status, $5,000 for gold, $7,500 for platinum and $12,500 for diamond -- in addition existing requirements to fly 25,000, 50,000, 75,000 or 125,000 miles to reach those levels. The spending requirement will be waived for those who spend $25,000 a year on a SkyMiles American Express card.


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-- Cox Newspapers

UNITED STATES

New Czech-style center coming to Vegas Strip

The Las Vegas Strip is already home to casinos that mimic the canals of Venice and the skyscrapers of Manhattan. Now Sin City is getting an events center modeled on an eastern European glass factory.

John Unwin, CEO of Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, says the casino is developing a 3,000-capacity theater that has sat empty since the hotel-casino opened in 2010. The auditorium is expected to open by the end of the year and will cater to conventioneers, boxing fans or concertgoers.

Unwin says the new events center will be called the Chelsea and will feature 18-foot ceilings, industrial-inspired light fixtures and a vintage wooden bar. He says it will recall a theater set dropped into a glass factory in Czechoslovakia.

-- Associated Press

Cleveland art museum turns to technology

The Cleveland Museum of Art has opened a high-tech gallery that electronically connects art fans and the museum's renowned collection.

Visitors to Gallery One will discover new ways of interpreting The Cleveland Museum of Art’s distinguished collection through a variety of
Visitors to Gallery One will discover new ways of interpreting The Cleveland Museum of Art's distinguished collection through a variety of interactive activities. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) ( Tony Dejak )

Gallery One has a 40-foot multitouch screen that displays images of more than 3,500 items from the collection. It will allow visitors to match their faces to works of art or strike a pose from a Rodin sculpture.

Visitors can download tours or create their own on iPads. And a new iPad app will allow visitors to learn how works of art were created and where.

-- Associated Press

EUROPE

Amsterdam-to-Brussels high-speed rail halted

It was supposed to be the perfect 21st-century link between two bustling European capitals. Instead, the new high-speed Fyra line connecting Amsterdam and Brussels turned into the missing link.

One month after the maiden trip, the Italian-built trains have been taken out of service.

Technical problems dogged the sleek new trains -- which can go 155 mph -- almost since the day they came into service Dec. 9. That has repeatedly caused delays between the Dutch and Belgian capitals instead of slashing more than an hour off the regular service the Fyra trains replaced.

Now the Belgian state rail company NMBS has suspended its contract for three trains and given Italy's AnsaldoBreda three months to make repairs or face legal action.

The problems have touched a nerve in Belgium, where railroads are a source of national pride. Belgium ran the first train on the European continent in 1835.

-- Associated Press

London's Olympic Park to host rock concerts

Olympic Park in London will partly reopen to the public this year for a series of summer rock concerts.

The east London park will host the Hard Rock Calling and Wireless festivals in July under a deal with events promoter Live Nation Entertainment, the London Legacy Development Corp. said.

Live Nation is leaving its previous venue in Hyde Park after friction over noise and time restrictions. Fans were angered this past summer when officials pulled the plug on a Bruce Springsteen-Paul McCartney duet in mid-song.

-- Associated Press