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Sale from Chicago Midway to the Western U.S.

United Airlines (tel. 800/864-8331; www.united.com) is having a sale for travel between Chicago Midway and a variety of cities west of the Mississippi starting from $178 round-trip plus taxes. The $178 fares are between Chicago Midway and Aspen, Grand Junction, Hayden/Steamboat Springs, Vail/Eagle and other cities. Chicago to Steamboat Springs is currently listed at $294 round-trip on Delta and $363 on U.S. Airways, so unless other airlines match you're in for some serious savings. For $228 round-trip you can fly to Burbank, Great Falls, Monterey, Santa Barbara and other destinations in the West, but the savings to these destinations aren't as dramatic compared to other carriers (and indeed, United trumps itself on the Chicago/Monterey route with a $208 round-trip fare good for travel any day of the week through February 3). The fares are readily available as we send this report off into cyberspace. Travel Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday only, through December 14, with a 14-day advance purchase and a one-night minimum stay required.

Deals to New Zealand in 2006

Air New Zealand (tel. 800/262-1234; www.airnz.com) is offering two deals currently on its site for travel to various cities in New Zealand from Los Angeles or San Francisco. One is listed at $910 round-trip for travel through December 9 and from February 1 to August 31 next year; the other is at $1,440 for travel from July 1 to August 31 next year. This is odd, because the dates seem to overlap, and why not just go with the lower in July and August? We checked San Francisco to Auckland for travel on July 12 outbound returning July 22 (ten days is not too long to spend in lovely New Zealand). On ANZ's site we got a fare of $969 round-trip. Checking Sidestep.com we saw a fare of $1,108 via OneTravel.com, including a $9.50 service fee for the same dates. As we've seen in the past, you're best buying Air New Zealand's fares on the airline's own site rather through middlemen. These sales are available, according to the Air New Zealand site, until May 25, 2006, which seems like an unusually long time. Furthermore, if you fly from Los Angeles to Auckland, you can stop in Fiji, Tahiti, Cook Islands, Samoa or Tonga for $90; and for $180 you can stop over during your return flight. You can also stop in Auckland at no extra charge. By the way, Air New Zealand's site is optimized to work with either Internet Explorer or Netscape. We Mozilla users will have to suffer.

Take 20-60 Percent Off Fares to Europe and Asia

Singapore Airlines (tel. 800/742-3333; www.singaporeair.com) recently redesigned their Web site, and to celebrate, they are offering 20 to 60 percent discounts on their coach fares from Los Angeles, New York JFK and San Francisco to 10 destinations in Europe and Asia. The fares are relatively good, especially since many are on nonstop flights and you get that famed Singapore service, but you can sometimes find lower fares elsewhere. For example, using November 8 as a departure date and November 15 as a return, a non-stop round-trip with all taxes from San Francisco to Hong Kong is $812 roundtrip including taxes/fees with this sale using Singapore's site, vs. $728 non-stop on United Airlines using Travelocity; but Los Angeles to Taipei is $670 on Singapore vs. $737 (non-stop on Eva Airways); and New York to Frankfurt is $490 nonstop on Singapore versus $445 (with a connection on Lufthansa). Their new site allows for a semi-flexible search of up to five days before and after the dates of your choice, which makes finding the lowest fares easier. Depart through November 20, and all returns must be completed by November 30. Typically fares are lower for mid-week travel. Tickets must be purchased by October 14.

Unadvertised Mexico Super Fares

Mexico has been in the low fare news lately. Over the past few days we've been tracking some absolutely insane fares to Mexico from major U.S. hub airports at Airfarewatchdog. How nuts are these fares? How about Atlanta to Cancun for $108 round-trip ($216 with taxes) on American for travel any day of the week from December 25 to February 1 with no blackouts? (Of course, Atlanta is a Delta hub, so one would have expected Delta to return the favor from American's strongholds in Miami, Dallas or Chicago, but that didn't happen). By contrast, Aeromexico, which offers nonstop service from Atlanta to Cancun, was charging $277 plus taxes. All last week, United was offering Cincinnati to Cabo San Lucas for $198 plus taxes round-trip for travel any day of the week through September 2, 2006. The next lowest fare was $501 round-trip on other airlines. Dallas to Cabo was also $198 on United, compared to $400 and up on other airlines. Cincinnati to Cancun was $218 round-trip on Continental (about $317 with taxes). And United had New York to Puerto Vallarta for $208 round-trip plus taxes, half what others were charging. There's no telling if these deals will be around by the time you read this since they're under-the-radar, unadvertised price reductions. But if they are, grab them: they're spectacular.

United Sale to Montego Bay

However, United (tel. 800/241-6522, www.united.com) has also slashed fares to Jamaica, and this is an advertised sale. Travel outbound through November 12 with no advance purchase. United's site says that travel is valid on Saturdays only, but that no minimum stay is required (as if anyone is going to fly to Jamaica on a Saturday and come back the same day). Des Moines to Montego Bay is advertised at $262 round-trip before taxes and fees, which are generally about $100. Chicago to Mo'Bay is $228 round-trip plus (about $50 less than on other airlines at present); and from Minneapolis it's $256 ($355 with taxes). Oddly, since United usually shares its lowest fares with third-party booking engines, the lowest fare we could find from the Twin Cities on Travelocity was $411 with taxes, so you might want to stick with United's site for this sale. Seats are relatively easy to find and in almost every case, United's fares were lower than any other airline's.

Family Promotion to Mexico

And speaking of our neighbor to the south, AeroMexico (tel. 800/237-6639; www.aeromexico.com) is offering two "Friends and Family Promotions." The first is for three people traveling on the same itinerary with the fourth person flying for free. The second is for four people on the same itinerary with a fifth flying free. At least two travelers must be adults. This promotion allows travel to any Mexico destination from Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York JFK, Ontario (CA), Orlando, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and San Diego. You can travel through December 10, 2005.

Continental's BusinessFirst to Europe Holiday Sale

Continental Airlines (tel. 800/231-0856; www.continental.com) is now offering a super discount on their comfy BusinessFirst service to over 20 European destinations. Fares start at $595 round-trip from Newark to Birmingham, Brussels, Glasgow and other cities for travel in November. Travel in December is $50 more. The fares are somewhat easy to find and are pretty good, considering that it's business class and travel during is during the peak holiday season. Depart November 19 to 24 and return November 25, 26, 28 to 30 or leave December 17 to January 1 and complete return travel by January 8, 2006. A 30-day advance purchase is required. We checked Newark to Brussels leaving the Tuesday before Christmas and returning the day after New Year's Day and got some surprises (as you will as well we suspect): first surprise, with taxes the Continental BusinessFirst fare was about what we expected at $1371 with taxes, but the coach fare on Continental was $948. If you're going to pay almost a $1000 at that time of year, why not go for broke and do it in comfort? Second surprise: American wasn't charging that much more (although Continental flies that route nonstop); but United wanted $6500. Ouch.

Beijing Sale for December and January Travel

Continental Airlines (tel. 800/231-0856; www.continental.com) is also having a sale to Bejing starting from $888 round-trip from the East Coast, with higher fares from elsewhere. Newark to Beijing works out to $954 with taxes if you leave on December 12 and return on the 20th, for example; or you could fork over $1,454 to Northwest or $1,606 to United on those dates. However, same dates, from Houston Northwest is charging $1,038 and Continental $1,450, so don't blithely assume that Continental is cheapest in every instance (although on a December 23/January 2 itinerary, advantage does back to Continental at $1,409 vs. next lowest $1,735 on United). Depart December 1 through 31, and a Saturday minimum stay is required. All return travel must be completed by January 31. Tickets must be purchased by October 17. And dress warmly! Beijing can be frigid in December and January.

George Hobica is a syndicated travel journalist and blogger whose website, www.airfarewatchdog.com, tracks unadvertised airfare wars and other fare sales.

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