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Round-the-World with Air New Zealand

Beginning October 26, 2006, Air New Zealand (tel. 800/262-1234; www.airnewzealand.com) will offer a new service between London Heathrow and Hong Kong, completing a link for travel around the world and making Air New Zealand the only airline to offer such service exclusively on its own planes. The route operates Los Angeles - Auckland - Hong Kong - London - Los Angeles or the reverse. To celebrate the launch, Air New Zealand is offering a deal for those who book before July 31, 2006 -- an introductory Pacific Economy Class rate of $2,500 per person, a $300 savings from the regular published fare. Year-round global fares include $7,200 for business class, $3,600 for premium economy and $2,800 for regular economy. Pacific Island stopovers are available between Los Angeles and Auckland and certain taxes, terms and conditions apply. United Mileage Plus, US Airways Dividend Miles and Air Canada's Aeroplan members can earn over 29,000 miles on these flights.

Singapore Airlines' Destination of the Month: Malaysia

Singapore Airlines (tel. 800/742-3333; www.singaporeair.com) opted for Malaysia this time around for its featured destination, with fares from Los Angeles or San Francisco (starting from $799 round-trip) and New York's JFK (starting from $899 round-trip) for departures between September 5 and November 6, 2006. These fares are definitely good deals, plus you get that famed Singapore Airlines service. Round-trip examples, with comparisons culled from Travelocity, including all taxes:

Depart September 20, return September 27

  • Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur: $864 vs. a next lowest of $974 on Delta (operated by Korean Air)

Depart October 5, return October 12

  • San Francisco to Kota Kinabalu: $864 vs. $1,305 on Malaysia Airlines

Depart October 29, return November 5

  • New York JFK to Penang: $964 vs. $1,942 on American (operated by Cathay Pacific)

As you can see, you'll definitely be saving a bundle on this sale. Two other cities included in this sale are Kuching, and Langkawi.

The tickets for this sale are not eligible for frequent flyer miles, and there's a six-month maximum stay.

Spirit's Red Light Special Returns

Spirit Airlines (tel. 800/772-7117; www.spiritair.com) is resurrecting its "red light specials" for travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays through November 15, 2006, and as usual, these round-trip deals seem really good. But the question remains: can you actually find them. Let's see:

Depart June 21, return June 28

  • Atlanta to Cancun: $381 vs. next lowest $416 on US Airways
  • Detroit to Cancun: $424 vs. $332 on Northwest

Depart August 11, return August 18

  • New York LaGuardia to Cancun: $268 matched by Continental
  • Washington National to Kingston (Jamaica): $298 vs. $318 on Delta

Depart September 26, return October 3

  • Tampa to Cancun: $259 vs. $282 on Spirit through Travelocity

We were able to find seats, in part thanks to Spirit's admirable flexible search feature (you just keep on clicking "next day" until you find the low fare). But the longer you wait, the less your chance of finding a low fare. Purchase your tickets by June 15.

Save 25 Percent to Mexico from West Coast

Alaska Airlines (tel. 800/252-7522; www.alaskaair.com) is offering a quarter off all fares to Mexico (Cancun, Guadalajara, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Loreto, Los Cabos, Manzanillo/Costa Alegre, Mazatlan, Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta) booked through their site for travel between September 6 and November 15. The discount is valid for departures from Alaska, California, Oregon, Reno and Washington State. Be sure to enter in the e-Certificate code EC03406 to receive the discount. Offer ends June 18.

Business Class to London from NYC or D.C., Starting from $1,199

MAXjet (tel. 888/435-9629; www.maxjet.com) is again offering a discount on their all-business class flights from New York JFK or Washington Dulles to London Stansted. The regular round-trip fare from New York is typically $1,499 and from D.C. it's $1,750 (taxes and fees are all included in MAXjet's fares), vs. the sale fare of $1,199. Travel between September 15 and November 10, 2006. You have to buy these round-trip fares on MAXJet's site. For comparison:

Depart September 20, return September 27

  • New York to London: $1,199 vs. $1,550 on MAXjet through Travelocity or $2,534 on Continental

Depart October 13, return October 20

  • Washington, D.C. to London: $1,199 vs. $1,796 on MAXjet through Travelocity or $2,805 on Continental

So if you feel like splurging, and want to save at the same time, this is the way to go. Purchase your tickets by July 14, and be sure to enter the promotion code FSWB06 to get the discount.

Bulk Fare? Buyer Beware

They were delayed on the way to the airport by a massive traffic jam, and by the time they arrived, Air France refused to let them check in since they had just missed the typical 60-minute cut-off for international flights. On top of that, because their package airfare was a discounted "bulk" deal, there were no seats on the next flight in their fare class, so the airline gave them a choice: either buy a new full fare ticket for $2,000 round-trip each or cancel their entire trip (for reasons that still aren't clear, they were next told that they'd have to pay $5,000 each). These hapless travelers, who were celebrating their anniversary with a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, went with option number two, thus throwing away a $5,000 trip.

Now of course, we can trot out the time-worn advice about arriving at the airport three hours ahead for an international flight. But sometimes an unforeseen event will thwart even the best-intentioned traveler. Perhaps it's better to warn people about bulk fares: most people don't realize that these cheap tickets, sold by low-cost tour operators, consolidators and some websites, often come with stipulations. With many of them, you cannot change your flights for any reason whatsoever. There are no refunds for any reason. Miss the plane, and you're out of luck. And if the airline cancels your flight due to equipment malfunction, don't expect them to automatically offer you a seat on a competitor's next flight out as they might do with a "published" fare; instead, you might have to wait for your original airline to find you a seat on one its own planes. So we suggest that the next time you buy an airfare ask if it's a bulk fare. Ask what extra restrictions will be imposed and whether you'll get frequent flyer miles and advance seat selection. And please be sure to get to the airport extra early.

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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