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AirTran: A Tale of Two Sales

AirTran

(tel. 800/AIR-TRAN; www.airtran.com) currently has two sales up for grabs, the first of which must be booked by May 6, and is good for travel all the way through summer to mid-November. These round-trip fares are priced accordingly, and much higher than, say, one of their frequent 2-day sales. But root around long enough and you'll find a decent fare or several:

You'll find much better fares in the second AirTran sale, good for travel through June 11, but hurry! Sale ends April 25, at midnight ET.

Virgin America Early Summer Sale

Speaking of hurrying up, it's not too late to catch Virgin America's (tel. 877/359-8474; www.virginamerica.com) latest sale on late spring/early summer travel. Last we checked, these fares were easy to find, and -- as is often the case -- being matched by other carriers. Also, let's not forget Virgin America is in the habit of extending sales just as they're about to expire, and just switching up the restrictions, so if you're reading this after April 25 there may still be hope.

You can use Virgin America's site to snag these fares as well as Travelocity, where their flexible date search can come in pretty handy. Fares are non-refundable, can be booked for one-way travel and include:

Boston Summer Fares to Europe

Boston seems to have an outsize share of good summer fares to Europe these days, especially the great Iberia (tel. 800/772-4642; www.iberia.com) deals we mentioned last week that are, amazingly, still available.

One of the few destinations not included in that comprehensive sale -- Helsinki -- we've now got covered with this $800 relative bargain including taxes on Finnair's (tel. 800/950-5000; www.finnair.com) seasonal non-stop service from Boston.

High as it is, the fare nevertheless represents a $400 savings over current rates for peak summer travel and has made this usually high-priced destination the cheapest gateway to cool clear summers and magical midnight twilight in Scandinavia, the Baltics, and northern Russia.

From here, St. Petersburg is just 250 miles down the road, Tallinn is a speedy ferry-ride across the Gulf of Finland, and Stockholm a leisurely overnight cruise away. Surprisingly cheap domestic flights starting at only $30 one-way to almost anywhere in Finland are easy to find on Finncomm Airlines, and Blue1 can also get you around the region at reasonable rates.

Eurofly Summer Fares to Italy

For the month of May you can Eurofly (tel. 800/459-0581; www.euroflyusa.com) yourself far into June in true Eurostyle along with all the Eurofolk returning with bleary eyes and upset hair from a whirlwind weekend in New York. Fares start at a reasonable $575 including taxes for non-stop flights and that makes them downright cheap for this time of year, this year.

If you picture Italy as a knee-high stiletto Gucci leather boot -- and frankly, who doesn't? -- with the northern top cut off at a smart bias (which is perfectly all right, because that part of Italy feels more like a Bally loafer, anyway), then you'll find half a dozen destinations scattered generously down the calf like so many gleaming gemstones.

First, there's Bologna perched on the brim like a big saucy ruby, trying its best to outshine Rome, Naples and Pescara daisy-chained around the ankle like a genuine pearl rosary. Smack dab on the toe, Lamezia Terme twinkles like a bright southern sapphire while clinging to the edge of whatever is getting a swift kick down south, Mafia-style, is the smoldering emerald of Palermo.

So there you have it. Go ahead and try them on for size, but keep in mind that selection is limited and selling as fast as real Gucci's at a Soho sample sale.

Summer in the UAE

The friendliest little emirate this side of the Persian Gulf, Dubai is also a booming financial center, happening cosmopolitan hotspot, sprawling shopping mecca and the only tropical beach resort offering year-round skiing on an indoor slope.

Everybody's invited and seems to be going, so getting there often isn't cheap, but we've found a bunch of great fares for May travel that won't cost you a whole lot more than that trip to Hawaii or a jump across the pond.

Starting at just under $800 from New York or $860 from Chicago and Los Angeles, these deals are too good to be easy to get, but if you poke around long enough you will find them, just like we did. Check out our Dubai page for the whole list and the individual fares for more details.

Abu Dhabi might be considered the runner-up for much of the above except the more outlandish amusement park aspects, but it currently ranks only a distant second when it comes to the price of admission, which starts at $950 from New York and $1012 from Chicago.

Airlines Making Big Bucks on Those Who Overpack

Airline passengers, whether traveling for business or pleasure, might want to think twice about how much they bring along for the ride starting next month.

Five of the seven major US airlines (Continental, Delta, Northwest, United, and US Air) plan to start charging most customers $25 each way to check a second bag starting May 5. Only American and Southwest, of the largest carriers, have decided not to go along -- for now. Air Tran is adding a $10 second bag fee for travel on or after May 15. Spirit Airlines already had a $10 fee if paid online, or $20 at the airport. But why let the airlines overcharge you for a service they provide so poorly? After all, lost, damaged and stolen luggage is a bad situation getting worse. If you're traveling domestically, read on for a better solution.

Additional Reporting by Tracy W. Stewart & Bo Borre

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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