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$79 Round-Trip United Fare War

Northwest must have really ticked off United, because UAL has snuck in some amazingly low fares to and from Northwest's hubs, and to/from several Midwestern cities. Travel is any day of the week, 1-night minimum stay, through next August. These fares went down to $99 RT yesterday; now they're even lower.

Here's a sampling (they all work in both directions):

  • Memphis/Minneapolis $79 RT
  • Memphis/Detroit $79 RT
  • Peoria/Memphis $79 RT
  • Indianapolis/Memphis $79 RT
  • Moline/Kalamazoo $79 RT
  • Lansing/Moline $79 RT
  • Saginaw/Peoria $79 RT
  • Minneapolis/Indianapolis $79 RT

The list goes on and on. For the complete list, visit www.airfarewatchdog.com to see the top fare list. These fares could change in a heartbeat; so low are they, so act fast!

British Airways Fares from $168 round-trip

British Airways (tel. 800/247-9297; www.ba.com) has launched a worldwide sale from its US gateways to over 100 overseas destinations. As of this writing, other airlines haven't matched, but by the time you read this they probably will have done so. Sample fares (all round-trip): New York to London $168; Los Angeles to Manchester $288; Philadelphia to Milan $295; San Francisco to Moscow $609; Boston to Mumbai $1018. Travel October 27 to December 15 and December 24 to April, Monday-Wednesday; $30 higher each way other days. Taxes/fees add another $100 to $140 round-trip. Purchase 7 days in advance, no later than September 22. Meanwhile, US Airways has come out with a fare sale of its own, but in some cases the BA sale blows them away. USAir lists Baltimore to Frankfurt, for example for $513 round-trip; BA has it for $291 round-trip (both fares before taxes) with a longer travel period.

Air New Zealand's Los Angeles to London

If you live in southern California and you have a hankering to visit London this month, then you might want to surf over to Air New Zealand (tel. 800/262-1234; www.airnewzealand.com). They're having a sale on their LA to London non-stops, and it's pretty darn good. Plus, availability is a cinch to find, since they show you the dates that the sale fares are available -- no hunting and pecking. I checked outbound on September 18, just before the official end of summer, returning September 26 and found a $601 round-trip all-in (as in all taxes/surcharges included). The best fare on Travelocity for those dates was $666, and that was on Air Canada with a change of planes in Toronto. On Expedia, the lowest deal on those dates was $790 round-trip on Virgin. Curiously, neither site returned a fare for Air New Zealand at all. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: you have to check individual airline sites, not just the big search engines, if you want to get the lowest fare. Incidentally, Air New Zealand is a fabulous airline. I flew them a while back on a segment between Auckland and Christchurch when a flight attendant caught me trying to stuff my carryon in the overhead bin. He called out, "Oh no you don't!" I thought he was about to scold me for trying to fit a round peg in a square hole, but instead he continued, "Sir, that's my job!" That's service with a smile.

Select California Cities to and from Hawaii

Aloha Airlines (tel. 800/367-5250; www.alohaairlines.com) is having a limited time sale between Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego or Orange County and Honolulu, Maui and Kona, from $159 one-way. Availability is rather scattered, but seats are available if you're flexible and patient. A round-trip purchase not required. For lowest fares, travel Tuesday through Thursday. Travel from Friday through Sunday is $40 to $60 more each way. Travel January 4 through March 15. Tickets must be purchased by September 16.

ANA Asia Sale

ANA (tel. 800/235-9262; www.fly-ana.com) is having a sale from select US cities to Asia. We'd rank it just so-so. We checked Washington to Tokyo departing on September 18, returning September 26 and found a nonstop flight, as advertised, for $973 round-trip (actually, the base fare is $800 round-trip, but the taxes and surcharges are a hefty $173). This was definitely the cheapest nonstop in the market, although American and Northwest had connecting flights for $200 less on those dates. Checking San Francisco to Nagoya September 21 out/September 28 return nonstop ANA's site returned a fare of $1358 round-trip, far higher than the promised $606 (plus taxes) "from" price. United, however, had nonstop flights for $963 round-trip on those dates, via Expedia; but the best deal was on Travelocity . . . exact same flights on United . . . for $655 round-trip. What's going on here? How could the same airline be selling the same flights on the same days for $300 less on one booking engine than another? I have no idea, but, once again, you get the message: shop around. It only took me about 60 seconds to save $300 by checking one additional booking engine, which works out to an hourly "salary" of, calculators please, $18,000!

ATA Sale

American Trans Air (tel. 800/225-2995; www.ata.com) is having quite a good sale that other airlines have not matched universally as of this writing. Fares start at $108 round-trip (e.g., Chicago to Orlando). Some seats are hard to find. In addition, ATA has some fares, not officially part of this sale, that are quite good, although we had to search four times before we could find dates, chosen at random, on an El Paso to Maui route (final fare $502 round-trip; the sale fare shown on ATA's site was $438 round-trip before taxes). But the next lowest fare on that route, same dates, using Travelocity was $758 round-trip on Delta, so clearly if you're flexible you can save some big bucks flying ATA. Here are the rules: Purchase by September 16, 10-day advance purchase; travel by December 14. Check the site for other restrictions.

Song Non-Stops Coast to Coast $119 One-Way

Song (tel. 800/359-7664; www.flysong.com), the perky little airline brought to you by Delta, is having a coast to coast sale between the following cities: Boston, Hartford, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. These $119 one-way fares are relatively easy to find (easier still if you use Travelocity's flexible date search feature), and most but not all are now being matched by other major airlines, including United and American, on their nonstop flights. This sale is valid for travel through January 31, but there are no day-of-week restrictions, subject to availability A. 7-day advance purchase is required and tickets must be purchased by September 29.

American's Dallas $74 One-Way Sale

American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) isn't known for having cheap one-way fares, but, probably in response to the current AirTran sale, the Dallas-based carrier is protecting its biggest hub by matching AirTran on several popular routes and going one better. AirTran's sale fares are good only for travel through December 15; American's, however, are valid all the way through February 1 for travel Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday. This sale is unadvertised and there's no telling when it might disappear. Here are the deals (all work in both directions, so if you're going to Dallas, or leaving from there, it's the same deal):

Dallas to and from (all $74 one-way):

  • Atlanta
  • Burbank
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Orlando

And Speaking of One-Way Fares

It's a fact of flying: one-way fares can sometimes cost hundreds of dollars more than round-trip fares on the same route. Consumers often wonder if they can't just buy a round-trip ticket and not use the return portion, a strategy the airline industry calls "throwaway ticketing."

The answer is that you can't, and you can.

American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, and US Airways specifically prohibit throwaway ticketing. We can't find anything on United's site that says anything about the practice, although they do specifically state that "back to back" ticketing is not allowed.

But what does "prohibited" really mean? Will you go to jail if you buy a round-trip ticket and fail to use the return portion? No. You won't even be fined. But the airline might penalize you by not granting frequent flyer miles on your trip; they might even cancel your frequent flyer account if you do this sort of thing too often. So if you do practice this strategy (and we're not encouraging you to do so), be sure not to give the airline your frequent flyer number when you book the flight, and don't use a travel agent since you might get him or her in trouble. Perhaps a better idea is to fly the many airlines that now sell all their tickets as one-way fares. These include AirTran, Air Canada, JetBlue, Independence Air, Song, Southwest, and most of the smaller niche carriers, some of which you may never have heard of, such as Allegiant (www.allegiantair.com); Trans-Meridian (www.iflytma.com; which, incidentally, is having a 25-percent-off sale on its Orlando routes); Pan Am (www.flypanam.com; yes, an airline with that name is still flying); and USA3000 (www.usa3000.com). Occasionally, just to tweak their competition, even the larger carriers sell cheap one-way fares. American (see above), Delta and other airlines often match AirTran's and Southwest's one-way fares on competing routes.

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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