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Virgin America Has Launched

Virgin America (tel. 877/FLY-VIRGIN; www.virginamerica.com) has announced that they will begin service in the US on August 8 on select routes from New York JFK, Washington Dulles, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.

To celebrate, they're offering discounted fares on cross-continental flights, and on flights between San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. You can find more details on the following links, like when service begins for each route or when to book.

Examples of round-trip fares include:

And you might as well make that first class, because Virgin is offering some competitive prices for these popular routes. For example, New York to Los Angeles is $778 first class, non-stop on Virgin. We did a Travelocity search for travel during the second week in September on the same route, and the cheapest non-stop fare was $1,600 on Delta. Even if you had a layover, Virgin's fare would still be cheaper, because the lowest one-stop was $1,150 on US Airways. This fare is also available for flights from New York to San Francisco.

By the way, low fares aren't the only great thing about flying with Virgin -- seats in the first class cabin come with a built-in massage function.

ATA Hawaii Fares for Fall

Summer vacation, schmummer schmacation; there are heaps of good reasons to save those vacation days for fall. That's when we see fares drop, and the tourist hordes begin to dwindle. And wouldn't you be the popular parent for taking the kids out of school for a family getaway to Honolulu or Cancun? Or, ummm, "oceanography" field trip, as you'll call it in your note to Teacher. We're telling you this because ATA (tel. 800/435-9282; www.ata.com) is having a sale for fall travel (September 4 through December 18) to Hawaii, and other great destinations.

  • Phoenix to Honolulu for $159 one way: We found the $159 fare pretty easily for travel in September 9-16, and our total, taxes and all, came to $318 round-trip. Plugging these same dates into Orbitz gave us a fare of $415 round-trip on ATA. That's a leap of almost $100 more!
  • Chicago to Cancun $139 each way. We found $139, $372 round-trip, with taxes, for travel on September 12 through September 19. On Orbitz, this same trip is listed at $309 round-trip, including taxes, with US Airways.
  • Baltimore to Dallas for $88 each way. Checking for September 12 through September 19, we found $217 round-trip, including taxes. The lowest fare listed on Orbitz for this trip is $220 round-trip, with taxes, on US Airways.
  • New York to Tucson for $99 each way. Using November 12 through November 19 as our dates of travel, we found a fare of $299 round-trip, including all taxes. Back on Orbitz, the best fare for this trip is $245 round-trip, including taxes, on Delta.
  • Las Vegas to Maui for $189 one way: For travel November 7 through November 14, we found a fare of $378 round-trip, with taxes. Orbitz lists this same trip at $439 round-trip, including taxes.

Though the promo may mention 'other great destinations' being included in this sale, don't be fooled. The real bargains are the fares to Hawaii, which Orbitz confirms are the lowest.

American Airlines Relaxes Frequent Flyer Mile Requirements

This isn't the first time an airline has offered such a perk, but it's noteworthy: for travel between Sept 1 and February 29, 2008, American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) will require 15,000 frequent flyer miles instead of the usual 25,000 for travel up to 750 miles in length.

That means you can fly from Dallas to Denver, Chicago to Atlanta, Philadelphia to Chicago, or St. Louis to Dallas, for example, for just 15,000 advantage miles. American says this "sale" will be available for a limited time, but they don't specify an end date.

15% off Alaska Airlines Flights

Alaska Airlines (tel. 800/426-0333; www.alaskaair.com) is discounting fares for Washington and Oregon, as well as select cities in California, for travel between Sept 5 and Nov 15. Save 15% if you use e-cert code EC04107 at alaskair.com before July 22.

A few sample fares include:

Sacramento to Cabo San Lucas for $69 each way plus tax

If you live in, or a reasonable drive from, Sacramento, this is a fab fare to Baja California, and you'll only find it on Frontier's (tel. 800/432-1359; www.flyfrontier.com) website (and not on any other fare search, comparison, prediction, or whatever site). It's only available for a selection of dates in July, August, September and October. We were able to find seats easily. With tax, you'll pay $239 RT. Purchase by July 31.

Low Fares to Aruba From Just About Everywhere

Airlines typically lower fares to the Caribbean this time of year for travel before the Christmas rush. And not to be a complete Debbie Downer, but this price drop just happens to coincide with hurricane season, plus the kids are back in school. But details, details. Luckily, Aruba is well below the hurricane belt, and we've spotted some terrific fares to the island from many US cities.

For example, you can fly to Aruba from these cities at these tax-included fares:

In most cases, travel is Sept 4 to Dec 13. Near as we can make out, these fares will go off sale on July 23. American (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) is the primary carrier to Aruba, and has listed sales to the island and to many Caribbean and Mexican destinations on their site.

Bonaire, another hurricane-safe island, is also on sale.

Consolidator Cons

Sure, you constantly pass over their tiny-tiny ads in the Sunday paper, but maybe you're a little fuzzy on the ins and outs of ticket consolidators. It's cheap but is it worth it? Read more about consolidators on the Airfare Watchdog website.

Additional Reporting by Grace Park 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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