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50% Off Canada

When we've mentioned this subject before, a few of you responded with, well, duh! of course airlines always sell seats cheaper on their own sites. But we're not talking like $7 or $10 cheaper (saving the fees that online travel agencies, such as Travelocity and Orbitz charge). We're talking hundreds of dollars cheaper -- hundreds of U.S. dollars, even.

We've noticed that Air Canada (tel. 888/247-2262; www.aircanada.ca) is back in the game of doing an end run around Kayak, Orbitz, Travelocity, Cheaptickets, and so on, when they have a sale. AC doesn't actually make a big deal of it ("You can only buy these fares right here on Air Canada!") but that's the truth of the matter. And this is why you really can't put your full faith in any site that claims to aggregate airfares, whether it's a fare prediction site, an historic airfare reporting site, or an airfare comparison site. Not unless the data is researched by real live breathing humans.

Recently, I was doing some fare research on various routes within Canada, and the example below is just one of dozens I found. Air Canada is having what they tout as a 50% off sale (they don't say 50% of what. The absolute highest Y classes, perhaps?). Anyway, for Canada, they're pretty good deals.

Here's an example of what we're talking about. On Travelocity.ca, we searched for the lowest fare between Toronto and Halifax in early January and found C$401.80, round-trip, which includes taxes and all those other horrendous Canadian fees such as airport improvement and whatnot.

The same search on Kayak directed us to Cheaptickets, where we found US$344 round-trip (or C$433.91), including all taxes. And Air Canada's website turned up a fare of C$308.80. See?! All fares must be purchased by December 22, and round-trip fares in US$ include:

Of course, AirCanada isn't the only game up north. WestJet (tel. 800/538-5696; www.westjet.com) is also having a 50% off sale of their own, which also ends December 22. Generally, fares are a tad less, with travel dates good between January 1 and October 31. Fares include:

$200 JetBlue Gift Card With DIRECTV Service

Nothing good on TV? In the Mar. ket for more channels? Well, JetBlue and DIRECTV are offering a $200 JetBlue gift card when you sign up for DIRECTV and activate service online. This offer is valid for new customers only and expires December 31, 2008. Check out www.jetblue.com for full details.

Our Top 10 Best Airport Sites

When they travel by air, many people look for the best fare online, book their tickets, and then blithely set off on their trips without thinking about doing any web research on the airports they are leaving from and the airports they are flying to. Until recently, yours truly was one of these great non-researchers. On the few times in the distant past that I'd bothered to look at airport websites, they always appeared clunky to me and not very useful.

But airport websites, if they're good ones, should be your first stop before leaving for the airport. Is the long-term parking lot under construction? Might public transportation be a better option than driving? Have they plowed the runways? How far is the walk to the gate? And where's the nearest coffee stop? Across the board, in the United States and throughout the rest of the world, most leading airports now have websites that are founts of useful information flight schedules and flight delays, services, shopping and dining, parking and ground transportation options, and other services. They usually show you the latest local weather conditions, too. We've looked at dozens of airport web sites in the last few weeks and we've selected ten favorites -- five in the US and five internationally -- based on ease of navigation, design quality, and richness of content.

Find out who made the cut.

JetBlue to Begin Service to Costa Rica

Beginning Mar. ch 26, JetBlue (tel. 800/538-2583; www.jetblue.com) will add daily nonstop flights between Orlando, Florida and San Jose, Costa Rica. This news comes in addition to the already announced service between Orlando and Bogotá, Colombia, which starts January 29, 2009 and Nassau, Bahamas, which starts February 1, 2009.

San Jose will be JetBlue's first venture to Central America. JetBlue said it has begun selling one-way tickets to Costa Rica starting at $99 through Dec. 23, with fares otherwise starting at $139 each way.

Here is a listing of the other new nonstop service coming to JetBlue:

  • San Juan, PR (SJU) and Fort Lauderdale, FL (FLL): December 18, 2008
  • Washington, DC (IAD) and West Palm Beach (PBI): December 18, 2008
  • Washington, DC (IAD) and Fort Myers (RSW): December 18, 2008
  • Tampa (TPA) and Cancun, Mexico (CUN) : December 18, 2008
  • Washington, DC (IAD) and San Juan, PR (SJU): December 20, 2008
  • Washington, DC (IAD) and Cancun, Mexico (CUN): December 20, 2008
  • Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Nassau, Bahamas (NAS): February 1, 2009
  • Boston (BOS) and St. Maarten (SXM): February 14, 2009

Plenty of Bargains for Peak Holiday Travel

Have you booked your ticket to wherever it is your plan on going for the holidays? Wha...? You haven't? Well, any other year, at this stage in the game, we'd probably pass you a Kleenex and tell you to either sit this one out, or put your money in the bag and keep your hands up where the airlines can see 'em. However, this year, with the economy not at its moist delicious best, and hordes of recently jobless folks gifting charcoal briquettes instead of flying home to see the family, it's still possible that you (yes, you!) could score a cheap seat. Be sure to read our tips for finding holiday bargains over in the blog.

Buying an Air Pass? Be Sure of What You're Buying

Planning your next big trip and think you might save some major cash by purchasing an air pass? Careful out there! Many "air passes" and other non-standard airfare deals do not grant frequent flyer miles on partner airlines, so it's good to double check that fine print before you buy. And more importantly, many air passes may not always be such a great value when compared to buying fares individually. Learn from one Qantas passenger's tale of woe here.

Chicago O'Hare Loses Virgin to Boston Logan

After being elbowed out of valuable space at O'Hare, Virgin America (tel. 877/ 359-8474; www.virginamerica.com) plans hock their wares elsewhere. Starting February 12, 2009 Virgin America will offer nonstop service between Boston and San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.

Here's a round-up of fares from Virgin's website, as compared with the competition. All are round-trip out of Boston with taxes and fees:

  • Thursday, Feb. 12-Tuesday, Feb. 17: San Francisco (SFO) $319 (Northwest $324 with 1 layover and American Airlines $399 nonstop)
  • Thursday, Mar. 5-Monday, Mar. 9: Las Vegas (LAS) $470 (American Airlines $333 with 1 layover and US Airways $359 nonstop)
  • Thursday, Mar. 12-Tuesday, Mar. 17: Los Angeles (LAX) $319 (Air Tran $400 with 1 layover and United $409 nonstop)
  • Sunday, Apr. 5-Friday, Apr. 10: San Diego (SAN) $470 (Northwest $371 with 1 layover and JetBlue $469 nonstop)
  • Thursday, Apr. 23-Tuesday, Apr. 28: Seattle (SEA) $470 (Delta $353 with 1 layover and JetBlue $359 nonstop)

Again service starts February 12, 2009. To snag these deals, book by December 21, 2008, for travel between February 12, 2009 and May 20, 2009. For full terms and conditions, visit Virgin America's website.

Additional Reporting by Andrew Hickey, Chris Kjelgaard, and Tracy W. Stewart

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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