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Extended: Virgin's Fares to Fly By

Virgin America's (tel. 877/359-8474; www.virginamerica.com) latest Fares to Fly By start at $64 one-way, before taxes. Offer is good for travel through May 25. Fares require a 7-day advance purchase for travel through Feb. 28, and a 14-day advance purchase for travel between March 1 and May 25. All tickets must be purchased by 11:59pm PST, Feb. 14. For Mexico, travel must occur between Feb. 21 and May 25.

You'll find the lowest fares available for travel through Feb. 28. Round-trip fares include:

Rarotonga, Cook Islands on Sale from Air New Zealand

Fly from Los Angeles to Rarotonga, Cook Islands, for $760 round-trip, nonstop, incl. all taxes. From Air New Zealand (tel. 800/262-1234; www.airnewzealand.com), this fare is valid for departures from April 3 through Nov. 27. Tickets require a 2-day advance purchase, with no minimum stay, and an allowed maximum stay of 12 months. Flights to Rarotonga depart Los Angeles on Sundays and return on Saturdays.

This offer expires March 7.

Portland Sale from Alaska Airlines

Save on travel to/from Portland with the current sale from Alaska Airlines' (tel. 800/426-0333; www.alaskaair.com). Discounted fares are valid for travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays from Feb. 14 through May 11. Avoid blackout dates on Feb. 17, 19, 21, 26, and March 17-28.

Travel to Mexico is valid on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Blackout dates for travel from Anchorage or Fairbanks to Portland are March 3-9. Blackout dates for travel from Portland to Anchorage or Fairbanks are March 10-16.

Tickets require a 10-day advance purchase. All bookings must be made by Feb. 14.

Round-trip fares include:

US Airways Raises Checked Bag Fees

We hate to say we told you so, but the airlines are not done with new fees. US Airways (tel. 800/943-5436; www.usairways.com) has raised the fee for checked bags weighing over 50 pounds, from the previous $70 each way to $90. It's also hiked the fee for bags weighing from 71 pounds to the upper limit of 100 pounds from the previous $120 to $175. In addition, the fee for a third and each additional checked bag is going up from $100 to $125 per bag each way. But wait (or is that weight?), there's more. The fee for "oversized" bags has also jumped. For bags with overall dimensions (width plus height plus depth) over 62 inches (up to a maximum allowed of 80 inches) the old fee was $100 per bag each way (that's in addition to any fee for the bag itself plus weight); the new fee is $175 per bag. Is US Airways trying to tell us that they don't want our heavy and oversized bags?

The new charges are for tickets purchased after Feb. 1, 2011 or for those traveling after March 1, 2011.

More than ever, this means pack light or, if you can't, ship don't schlepp! FedEx Ground and UPS Ground service will cost you less if your bag is heavy, especially if you're traveling over a shorter distance. As predicted earlier, we wouldn't be surprised to see the airlines impose fees based on distance traveled and not just weight.

The real question now is will other airlines follow suit? We are afraid they will. As they do, we'll keep our airline checked bag fee chart updated.

From the Mailbag: Rule 260 & Involuntary Refunds

Q: We had long-standing reservations for a flight to St Louis, connecting in Atlanta. Departure time from our home city was 8:30am.

We received an e-mail timed at midnight (which we didn't see right away) and then a 5am automated phone call from Delta telling us the flights had been cancelled, and that we'd been placed on another series of flights departing around noon. It would have gotten us to St. Louis within five hours of our original arrival time.

The new timing did not work for us, so I called Delta. After being on hold for quite a while, the reissue desk allowed us to cancel with a full refund since they said that it was an involuntary change on our part.

Is this common? I mean, I'm grateful to have a full refund, but with all the schedule changes in the air today, is it Delta's policy to fully refund if they change the flights?

A: Find out.

Additional reporting by Tracy W. Stewart

George Hobica is a syndicated travel journalist and blogger whose website, www.airfarewatchdog.com, tracks unadvertised airfare wars and fare sales, including the most helpful and always updated Top 50 Airfares.

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