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On the Lan

Lan Chile (tel.800/735-5526; www.lanchile.com) is having a sale from Miami to Buenos Aires for $630 round-trip. Once you factor in taxes, this fare will end up costing you $724, and includes two layovers at about 6 hours total. We were able to find this fare for $725 non-stop on Lan Argentina on itasoftware.com (www.itasoftware.com), using the same April 10-April 18 dates. This clearly beats the next lowest non-stop fares of $841 on Aerolineas Argentinas (tel. 800/333-0276; www.aerolineas.com.ar), and $931 on American Airlines. This fare must be purchased by March 31 and though the rules state these fares are only good for travel before May 31, we found them to be available well into the first week of July.

JetBlue's Great Cape Escapes

JetBlue (tel. 800/538-2583; www.jetblue.com) has announced its new daily non-stop service from New York's JFK to Nantucket, beginning May 24. Nantucket's population swells from 9,000 to 50,000 in the summer months, and this new service will surely be a great help to all the New York residents who make up almost a third of that number. Round-trip fares will range from about $178 to a whopping $558, though JetBlue is offering a $49 one-way introductory fare, good for travel between May 24 and June 20, if purchased by March 7. Additionally, JetBlue will soon offer daily connecting service from Boston to Hyannis, Nantucket, Provincetown, and Martha's Vineyard with new code-share partner, Cape Air. Service begins March 19 and tickets are on sale now.

Icelandair to Sweden and Norway's West Coasts

Icelandair (tel. 800/223-5500; www.icelandair.com) has added two new Scandinavian cities to its list of destinations. As of May 17, service will begin to Sweden's second largest city, Gothenburg. And starting May 19, service will begin to Norway's second largest city, Bergen. Both are advertised as starting around $600 round-trip, but the asterisk informs us that this is merely a sample fare based on travel from New York to Gothenburg, between May 16 and June 6. Still, that's a pretty good deal, especially for Scandinavia in spring. We found the advertised fare, which comes out to be about $680 with taxes, for our chosen dates, May 23 through May 31. The dates we had initially searched had a much higher fare, but luckily Icelandair.com's search engine highlights the dates with the lowest fares, which makes it much easier to sniff out the bargains. Using the same dates, we did find a fare of $678 on Finnair, but that $2 difference comes with a longer flight and an out-of-the-way connection in Helsinki, as opposed to IcelandAir's brief connection in Reykjavik. Unless you really want that souvenir Marimekko tote bag from the Helsinki airport, we suggest spending the extra $2.

Early Summer Sale to Europe

Also new with Icelandair is their Sale of Glacial Proportions, on spring and summer travel to Europe from all their U.S. cities, which include Baltimore/Washington, New York's JFK, Boston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Orlando Sanford. We've grown a tad skeptical of these Icelandair sales, since they rarely seem to be the best deal, so we checked up on a few of these advertised fares.

We searched for the $330 Boston to Glasgow fare (sale parameters: February 1 - March 31), using March 14 through March 22 and it appeared to be sold out. The best we saw on Icelandair.com was $595 for March 12 through March 20. Searches on Itasoftware.com and Orbitz (www.orbitz.com) proved that this is actually the best fare for this route. For Baltimore/Washington to Stockholm in late spring-early summer (sale parameters: April 1 through June 14), the advertised fare is $564 on Icelandair, and that's exactly what we found to be available, even through June 16 when this sale fare should have expired. That comes to $640 with taxes, which is still a pretty terrific fare for Stockholm in spring, and much better than the next lowest fare of $758 on US Airways. Overall, this sale has some of the best springtime fares to Europe, though seat availability is already pretty limited on some routes.

Continental to the Caribbean

Continental Airlines (tel. 800/525-0280; www.continental.com) is having a sale to Mexico and the Caribbean, for purchase by February 28 and good for travel through May 13. If you live near any of the Continental hubs, it's definitely worth checking out. In some cases, we found even lower fares than those advertised, and you'll see them on the airfarewatchdog.com Houston and Newark pages. A few sample fares include:

New ExpressJet Nonstop Flights

Residents of San Diego, Sacramento, Ontario, Bakersfield, Monterey, and Fresno (and those wanting to visit those cities) now have new nonstop flight options thanks to ExpressJet (tel. 866/958-2001; www.xjet.com). Fares are in some cases considerably lower than what competing airlines are offering for those time-consuming and otherwise odious connecting flights, although on other routes the fares are the same, but again, this is for point-to-point service. ExpressJet flies Embraer regional jets on all routes. All fares can be bought one-way for half the roundtrip price. New routes include:

  • San Diego/Monterey for $118 RT
  • Bakersfield/San Diego for the same fare
  • Ontario/Fresno $118 RT, San Antonio/Ontario $218 RT
  • Sacramento/Spokane $118 RT
  • Colorado Springs/Ontario $188 RT

More of ExpressJet's routes and fares are listed on airfarewatchdog.com's Ontario, CA, San Diego and Sacramento fare pages.

Currently, you can only book flights on ExpressJet's own website. See their route map here: http://xjet.com/why_xjet/route_map.htm. As an aside, ExpressJet has a "customer of size" policy, meaning that if you take up two seats, you pay for two seats. Customers of size are defined as those who cannot be comfortably seated with the armrest down.

JetBlue's Blues

What are we to make of JetBlue's recent crisis, which left passengers stranded on planes for hours and resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of flights? An interesting article by Scott McCartney in the Wall Street Journal on February 20, 2007 explains in great depth why JetBlue and other airlines don't go back to the gate to deplane captive passengers. A lot of it has to do with crew scheduling issues and losing take-off slots, and not so much with a lack of available gates or moveable stairways to deplane passengers. But it appears other factors were at work as well in JetBlue's case, including a simple lack of planning, which the airline readily acknowledges. And I think, too, that because JetBlue is so beloved by so many, we hold them to a higher standard. I'll throw in a little aside here, too, and you can take it for what it's worth. As you may know, David Neeleman, the airline's energetic CEO, often rides on flights and chats with passengers. I had the opportunity to sit next to him on a flight about two years ago, and we were chatting amiably about the airline. I told him how much I enjoyed flying JetBlue (and I still do, and would gladly fly them again), but when he asked my opinion about how they were doing, I made some little remark about how I thought they might improve service (hey, I'm a travel writer and I've flown scores of airlines over the last 50 years, so I should have some perspective, right?). Suddenly, Neeleman was not listening. He completely blanked out. This guy was not interested in hearing any criticism. He soon excused himself and sat next to another JetBlue employee who was on the same flight and for the remainder of the journey immersed himself in watching a football game on the plane's DirectTV system. Telling? I don't want to read too much into it, but the memory has lingered.

Additional reporting by Tracy William Stewart.

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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