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If you've flown recently then you've noticed the planes are jam packed, at least on domestic routes. And the staff of Airfarewatchdog.com has noticed that those insane intra-day unadvertised fare wars that are our bread and butter have become less and less frequent. The airlines have put planes in mothballs and aren't planning on buying any new ones soon. And they've switched equipment to higher-revenue international flights. All of which may explain why this week most of the sales are on overseas flights.

Spirit Sale for Travel in May and June

Spirit Airlines (tel. 800/772-7117; www.spiritair.com) is having a Red Light Specials sale for select dates in May and June from $118 round-trip. Good deal or not? Here are round-trip fares we found, playing around Spirit's booking engine (taxes and fees included):

  • Ft Lauderdale/Nassau (depart May 21, return May 28): $262 vs. $466 on America West through Orbitz.com
  • Atlantic City/Myrtle Beach (depart June 6, return June 14): $199 vs. $430 on Delta through Cheapair.com
  • Detroit/San Francisco (depart June 2, return June 12): $259 vs. $294 on Northwest through Orbitz.com

Good deal, it would seem, especially if you're looking for last-minute travel. And since you can only travel on specified dates, you've got to be flexible, but at least Spirit is clear about what dates qualify for the sale fares. Act fast though, since you only have through May 11, 2006, 11:59PM EST.

Sale to Aguadilla and Ponce for summer travel

Delta Air Lines (tel. 800/221-1212; www.delta.com) is featuring a sale to the Puerto Rican cities of Aguadilla and Ponce. The fares are definitely lower than they were before Delta's reductions, but in some cases, depending on your dates of travel, other airlines will have better deals (keep in mind that fares fluctuate like the stock market). Still, a few weeks ago you would have paid much more, no matter what the airline. Below are a few round-trip samples with taxes and fees included:

Depart June 1, return June 8

  • Atlanta to Aguadilla: $371 on Delta compared to a next lowest $523 on Continental via Travelocity
  • Boston to Aguadilla: $305 vs. $315 on Continental
  • Nashville to Aguadilla: $588 vs. $550 on Continental/US Airways

Depart July 15, return July 22

  • Philadelphia to Ponce: $696 vs. $500 on US Airways
  • Columbia, SC to Ponce: $713 vs. $567 on Continental through Orbitz
  • Tampa to Ponce: $415 on Delta, or $658 on Continental via Travelocity

So while these fares aren't as astounding as the $198 round-trip San Francisco to San Juan fare that the Airfarewatchdog team dug up yesterday, they'll still save you some money.

Purchase 21 days in advance and stay at least one night. Travel between June 1 and August 1, 2006. Blackouts on June 30 and July 9, 2006. Travel to/from Aguadilla on Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday only. Travel to/from Ponce on Wednesday and Saturday only. Tickets must be purchased by May 22, 2006.

Atlanta and NYC to Antigua, Belize City and Merida

Delta's other sale this week is for travel to Antigua, Belize City and Merida from Atlanta, New York JFK and LaGuardia with no advance purchase required. Below are a few samples with taxes and fees included:

Depart May 24, return May 31

  • Atlanta to Antigua: $376 vs. on Delta.com vs. $402 on US Air via Orbitz
  • NYC LaGuardia to Antigua: $430 (US Airways matching)

Depart July 30, return August 6

  • Atlanta to Belize City: $438 vs. $428 on American through Travelocity or $418 through Orbitz
  • NYC JFK to Belize City: $487 vs. $460 on American

The big deal here is that technically (as long as seats are available) no advance purchase is required. Minimum stay: 2 nights for Antigua and Belize City, and 3 nights for Merida. Travel to/from Antigua on Wednesday and Sunday only; and travel to/from Belize City on Saturday only through May 20; and Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday only beginning May 21. Blackouts: to/from Antigua July 30 to July 5, 2006; from Antigua to New York JFK or LaGuardia May 24 to June 4, 2006; and from Belize City to New York JFK or LaGuardia May 27 to June 5, 2006. Maximum stay: to Antigua and Merida - 30 days or until August 24, 2006; to Belize City - 60 days. Tickets must be purchased by May 15, 2006.

Summer Travel Sale to Ireland

Aer Lingus (tel. 800/474 7424; www.aerlingus.com) is offering a summer sale to Ireland from Boston, Chicago O'Hare, New York JFK and Los Angeles for summer travel. Below are some fares with taxes and fees included:

Depart August 22, return August 29

  • NYC to Dublin: $628 non-stop vs. $651 on Delta with 1 possible plane change
  • Boston to Dublin: $628 non-stop vs. $664 on American with a plane change

Depart August 4, return August 11

  • Chicago to Shannon: $948 non-stop vs. $794 on American with plane changes
  • Los Angeles to Shannon: $1,180 vs. $984 on American

As you can see, it appears that the fares to Dublin are better than those to Shannon. The sale covers travel through August 31, 2006, but the lowest fares are for travel in May, followed by travel in August, early June, July and then late June. Tickets must be booked by May 14, 2006.

Peak Summer Fares to Manchester (England England) from $475 Round-Trip

Miraculously, we think, there are still nonstop flights available from New York and Newark to Manchester, UK for peak summer travel at about $475 round-trip including taxes. We thought these fares would be long gone by now (what, no one wants to visit Manchester?). The flights from JFK are on Delta (tel. 800/221-1212; www.delta.com) American has change of plane itineraries) and from Newark on Continental (tel. 800/525-0280; www.continental.com). Depart mid May to the end of July; stay up to a month. From Manchester you can reach almost anywhere in Europe for next to nothing. And London is a short train or bus ride away (fares to London from New York with taxes will set you back up to $900 this summer). We've seen Paris from Manchester as low as $57 round-trip and even Moscow for $199 round-trip.

Hidden Asia Sales

United (tel. 800/241-6522; www.united.com) still has seats for some unadvertised deals to Asia, but you must act and travel fast. For example, via Travelocity.com, San Francisco to Bangkok is $574 round-trip plus tax for departures May 16-18 and returns up to a month later with a Saturday night stay. Travel Tuesday to Thursday only. Seattle to Hong Kong is $589 round-trip (about $100 less than other airlines are charging), same rules. But there's a catch: we found these flights only on Travelocity, not on United itself (which isn't necessarily surprising). United.com told us that there were "no flights" found on the dates we searched, although we could book on Travelocity. But a further catch: to find United's flights on Travelocity using a flexible date search, which is what we did, you may have to go through a convoluted process, depending where you live. (It appears that in some parts of the country United's fares show up, and in others, they don't). To ensure that you see them in your searches, do this: click on "Airline and Nonstop Options" under Advanced Search Options, and specifically choose United. Travelocity, if you're reading this, we'd love to know what's going on. Speaking of Asia, but not on United, Malaysia Airlines has nonstops from Los Angeles to Taipei for $504 round-trip plus.

Low-Cost Asian Carriers

You probably already know about low cost European airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair. But other continents also have LCC's (low-cost carriers) as they're known in industry-speak, and they can save you money if you go directly to their Sites. Example: Bangkok Airways, which flies between Bangkok and many of the region's tourist destinations. Their most recent newsletter is advertising flights between Bangkok and Phuket for $32 one-way. The lowest price we could find on Travelocity on that route was $138 on Thai and $161 on Bangkok Airways itself. And seats were readily available at that price, although taxes added about $10. Other low cost carriers in Asia include Air Asia, which has hubs in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Jakarta; Valuair and Tiger Airways, both of which have hubs in Singapore. Most of these airlines offer email newsletters with special savings, so you might want to sign up ahead of a trip to Asia. You'll find it's often cheaper to fly into Singapore or another major Asian hub on a larger airline such as United, Northwest, or Singapore and then switch to these smaller airlines to connect onward or to hop around the region.

Additional reporting by Kim Liang Tan

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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