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Spirit Not the First to Charge Booking Fee

Wow, what a lot of attention Spirit (tel. 800/772-7117; www.spiritair.com) has gotten thanks to an article in the Wall St. Journal reporting that the fee-happy carrier is considering charging yet another fee, perhaps $10, for booking a fare other than at the airport. But wait! Spirit gives consumers a $10 discount when booking online (versus booking, say, on Kayak). So if they retain the discount, isn't this a wash? And according to this article, Spirit imposed a "web convenience fee" of $10 but quickly changed their mind last year.

Also, for ages Allegiant Airlines has been charging a "convenience fee" (whose convenience actually?) for those booking by phone ($10 per passenger per segment) or even online ($13.50 per passenger). And Europe's EasyJet has had this type of charge for years (see below). So Spirit isn't first out of the gate on this.

At least Spirit doesn't charge (yet) for checking in at the airport with a live agent, or for using a credit card, as some low cost airlines in Europe do (EasyJet charges 2.5% or £3.50 if you use a card and a £1.95 booking fee for other transactions, and they don't accept cash or cheques). Not yet, anyway.

ANA e-Bargain Fares to Japan

Those looking for a good fare to Japan this spring should check out the latest batch of e-Bargain Fares from ANA (tel. 800/235-9262; www.ana.co.jp). This sale is good for departures between April 1 and May 31, with lower fares available for April 1-May 1 departures. Weekend and peak travel are both subject to additional surcharges of $20-$35. Fares include:

ANA also has more immediate Eco Value Fares for departures through March 31, for travel to Japan and elsewhere in Asia.

For a complete listing of fares, visit our city pages for Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya.

Fewer Passengers, Lower Fares

Continental (tel. 800/525-0280; www.continental.com) reports that passenger traffic on trans-Atlantic routes was down 10.3% last month compared to the year earlier, while capacity was down just 4.7%, according to a report on CNN.com. That's probably why we're seeing such amazing low fares to Europe for Spring travel from Newark, Continental's eastern hub.

Summer fares from Continental include:

Alaska Web Fares for March

In keeping with the trend of carrier direct web specials, Alaska Airlines (tel. 800/426-0333; www.alaskaair.com) has some good deals for spring. Fare restrictions vary according to city pairings, but the majority are valid for travel between March 9 and March 22. Excluding travel to Alaska, all tickets must be purchased within 24 hours of travel. Fares include:

Spring Sale to/from Boston

American (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) has a brand new sale to/from Boston, good for domestic travel through May 20, and international travel (except Europe) through May 17. Sure, the domestic fares are nothing to sneeze at, but it's the international ones that really stand out.

Domestic blackout dates are March 27-29, April 3-5, 10-11, and 13. International blackouts will vary according to destination. All tickets must be purchased by March 10, and fares include:

Moscow Sale for Spring/Summer

Also on our radar this week is American's (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) Moscow sale for spring/summer travel. Lower fares are available for departures through May 31, with fares slightly higher between June 1 and August 30. This sale is valid for travel Monday through Thursday. Fares include:

Q&As with Airfarewatchdog

When might you actually want to avoid purchasing the lowest of the low fares? And what are the most common mistakes folks make when shopping for a ticket? Find the answers to these and other questions over in the Airfarewatchdog blog.

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.