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March 26, 2004 -- Air travel is usually something we mull over, think about, and spend a good chunk of change on. That goes for "cheap" fares as well as expensive ones -- $300 may be a great fare to get to Europe with, but it's still a bit of an investment for most people.

Right now, though, there are a slew of fares under $100 out there for domestic round trips. That's as close to an impulse buy as you can get in the air today. Combine these fares with a hotel you pick up on Priceline (www.priceline.com), and you have an ideal cheap weekend getaway.

Of course, these fares don't include taxes, which will bump your final costs up by $20-$30. Still, it's possible to make a sub-$100 getaway out of many of these fares. Remember, they go both ways, so AirTran's $98 fare can be used either to get upstate New Yorkers down to the nation's capital, or to ferry Marylanders up to Rochester's new direct ferry service for Toronto.

Terms and restrictions vary; typically, there's a 7 or 14-day advance purchase requirement on these fares. America West tickets must be bought by March 25, AirTran tickets must be bought by April 1, Southwest tickets must be bought by April 8, and the other sales may disappear any time. Check the individual airlines' Web sites for full details.

The Southwest Effect

When it comes to sub-$100 fares, of course, Southwest stands alone. The doyen of discount airlines has more fares under $100 in any given week than other airlines do all year. Some of their current cheap roundtrip flights include:

  • Chicago and Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Louisville, Nashville, Omaha and St. Louis are $68.
  • Fort Lauderdale and Orlando or Tampa Bay are $68.
  • Kansas City and Chicago, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, St. Louis or Tulsa are $68.
  • St. Louis and Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Kansas City, Little Rock, Louisville, Oklahoma City, Omaha or Tulsa are all - yep -- $68.
  • Oakland, Sacramento or San Jose and Burbank, LA, Ontario or San Diego are $78.
  • Philadelphia and Providence are a mere $58. Rhode Island beaches, here you come
  • Portland and Boise or Spokane are $68.
  • St. Louis and Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Kansas City, Little Rock, Louisville, Oklahoma City, Omaha or Tulsa are all - yep -- $68.
  • Tampa Bay and Jacksonville or West Palm Beach are $68.
  • Additionally, many flights within Texas are $68 round-trip; for a full list, see www.southwest.com/hotfares/genmkt_texas_040210.html.

To get any of these fares, you must book by April 8 (March 25 for Florida flights) with a 14-day advance purchase. Book online at www.southwest.com.