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Great Transcon and California Sales

Someone (Virgin America we think) started it, and others are matching. You can fly some major trans-continental routes for $218 RT plus tax. And no advance purchase is required! Lowest fares, as usual, are for Tue/Wed/Sat travel. Sale ends Feb. 8 and travel is through Apr. 1. And on some routes, the fares are even lower than these advertised deals with a longer travel period (for example, Virgin is selling Washington to LA for $99 each way for travel through Aug 31). There are also sales for travel within California and along the west coast. We haven't seen fares this low in ages.

Examples (all at $218 RT or less plus tax) include:

Southwest Sale Continues

Southwest just ended a three-day sale for travel at the lowest fares on any day of the week (usually it's Tue/Wed/Sat for the best deals), but their other sale ends Feb 19, with fares ranging from $49 to $159 each way for travel through May 20 with a 14-day advance purchase. Flights to/from Washington, Orange County, and, sadly, Florida are not included, but fortunately other airlines are matching or beating this sale, and are including these excluded destinations.

US Air Lowers Fares to Paris for August Travel

Airfares to Europe continue to be pretty expensive. Over the MLK weekend, US Airways had a huge unadvertised sale to many European cities from various US airports, with tax-included fares in the $500s and $600s RT. We thought those deals would never come back, and maybe they won't, but we have noticed the return of a few routes to Paris that are good deals from various cities, in the $600's with tax, but only for travel mid to late August. See what we've found in this roundup of fares.

United Offers No Advance Purchase Summer Fares to Sydney; Qantas Matches

It's summer in Australia (they're actually having a bad heat wave down under), and normally the airlines take advantage of this peak travel season by charging a premium. But for some unknown reason (probably owing to low traffic and the economy) United launched an unadvertised sale this week with fares at or below off-peak levels, and with no advance purchase required. Qantas belatedly matched this sale, although their fares are a bit higher than United's in some cases (still with the no advance purchase required perk). Plus, Qantas is offering the same deals to Brisbane and Melbourne from Los Angeles and other major US cities, and is also offering fares starting at $798 RT from the west coast to New Zealand for travel beginning February 22.

Fares can be found from virtually any US airport served by United. Los Angeles to Sydney, for example, is going for $798 RT including taxes. The Qantas sale ends February 11 so we can assume United's might end then as well.

Students Save 11% on JetBlue

JetBlue is giving students a break in partnership with the International Student Identity Card (ISIC). The card costs $22 per year and students aged 12 and over currently enrolled at an accredited instituting and working toward a diploma or degree are eligible.

$75 Coupon Code Discount on Air France

There's still time to take advantage of Air France's $75 coupon sale to Europe. We checked to see if $75 off on Air France was indeed cheaper than no discount on competing airlines, and we found that you will save money since the French carrier's fares are as low or lower than the other airlines'.

Still Time to Get $50 Off JetBlue

Register for this promotion on jetblue.com then book a roundtrip flight on jetblue.com between January 29, 2009 and February 8, 2009 for travel between February 24, 2009 and March 31, 2009 and they'll send you a $50 voucher good for travel on JetBlue between May 4 and June 17, 2009 (Black out dates of May 21 to May 25 apply). Vouchers will be emailed on or after April 15, 2009. Click here for more details and to register.

Top 10 Airfare Tips

In case you missed it, we've assembled our best advice on how to save on airfares in 2009. It's hard to predict where airfares are headed (where is oil headed? Will there be more airline consolidation? Will the economic stimulus plan stimulate passenger traffic? Who knows, really). But we are sure that if you follow our ten top tips you'll be better prepared.

Milwaukee International Relaunches Website

With commercial airline traffic heading downward, it makes sense for airports to encourage people to fly. And one way to do it is to show potential flyers that there are low airfares to be had from the airport. Milwaukee's General Mitchell Airport (www.mitchellairport.com) has redesigned its website, and the best part, IOHO, is the addition of the Airfarewatchdog fare widget to the home page. They've also added a mobile version of their site (best viewed on a mobile device, of course), something that we hope more airports will do.

Refunds When the Fare Goes Down

We recently received this question from a reader. Perhaps you've found yourself in the same spot:

I booked a flight only a few weeks ago thinking that prices would soon being going up. I'm bringing my boyfriend home with me to Ireland to introduce him to my family for the first time and we wanted to get a good deal for an expensive trip in hard times.

We paid $460 per ticket on Delta.

Well, I just searched on Delta again and saw that the exact same flight is now costing $305 total per ticket!! That's insane!!

How are they allowed to charge you one price one week and not reimburse you for the price difference? If I bought an item in a store before a sale I would be entitled to return it for whatever reason and then if I so chose, could buy it at the reduced sale price. How come airlines don't allow this? Could I ask for a refund and repurchase the flights at the reduced cost saving a whopping load of bucks?

Well, some airlines do in fact give you all your money back without deducting a fee.

There's a lively discussion going on over in the Q&A section of Airfarewatchdog, with more tips from readers on which airlines are better than others when a fare goes down.

And We Thought Germans Were More Buttoned Down Than Brazilians

Did you hear about those two German tourists who were arrested in Brazil for taking off all their clothes in the middle of the airport? Lest you blame the excesses of youth, these guys were in their 60's. Yep, imagine a pair of Teutonic seniors under the harsh, unforgiving fluorescents, standing in the altogether in a crowded terminal. Their excuse? They thought it would be "okay," since it was a beach city.

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.

Talk with fellow Frommer's travelers on our Air Travel Forum today.