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February 25, 2004 - Loyal readers on our Message Boards have started to ask, "When are the peak-season deals coming?" Soon, folks, soon. For now, several airlines have started to heat up late spring with great fares to the UK and Ireland.

We know the UK has become startlingly expensive recently, thanks to the unprecedented strength of the British pound, which is expected to hit $2 later this year. We're working on a column of tips on how to lower your prices on the ground. Meanwhile, though, airfares across the pond are as low as ever -- and every dollar you save on airfare is another dollar you can spend on beer.

If London is your goal, check out Virgin Atlantic's sale fares at www.virgin-atlantic.com/promotion.view.do?id=2375. For April and May travel from New York, they're offering $268 roundtrips; roundtrips from Washington, D.C. cost an affordable $346, and May roundtrips from LA are a mere $426. These are excellent prices, and you won't regret booking them. Virgin's winter fares are even lower -- for flights before April 4, you pay a mere $178 roundtrip from New York and $246 roundtrip from D.C. Head over to Virgin's Web site and book by tomorrow, Feb. 26, if you're interested in these fares.

Air New Zealand has an even longer-term London sale from LA. Their roundtrip fares of $460 on Mondays-Thursdays and $480 on weekends carry all the way to June 15, the start of the traditional summer travel season. Depart by June 15 and you can stay up to 90 days -- that's all summer. That makes these fares a great deal for a summer in Britain. Book them online at http://203.167.234.188/usa/airfarespecial/1280.htm.

For trips to Scotland, US Airways has a May sale on right now at www.usairways.com/pro/specials/scotlandsale.htm.Their fares apply for flights heading out between May 10-30 or Sept. 2-Oct.21, if you're planning very far ahead. Their flights run nonstop from Philadelphia to Glasgow; if you're flying from anywhere other than Philly, you'll have to change planes there. The major advantage of this sale is that it opens up reasonable fares to people in places like Charlotte and Harrisburg, who don't often see super-low international fares. Fares include:

  • Allentown, Boston, Harrisburg, Islip, New York City (LGA), Philadelphia, Providence: $458
  • Baltimore, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Washington DC: $478
  • Greensboro, Nashville, Norfolk, Raleigh/Durham: $488

Thinking about Ireland? The best deal right now for flights in May, September and October is Aer Lingus' fare to Shannon from Chicago, for $398 roundtrip. Flights through June 20 are $498, and high-season summer flights are $598. They also have a sale on for flights from LA to Dublin or Shannon through the end of March for a mere $298 roundtrip. Interested? Buy by March 1 by going to www.aerlingus.com and clicking on the blue box on the right hand side of the page marked "From the USA."

If price isn't so much the object, bmi British Midland has an interesting deal for you that even applies during the summer high season. Their "Wale of a Deal" package includes flights to Manchester in bmi's "New Economy," quasi-business class seating, a week's car rental and seven nights at luxury boutique hotels in Wales. Mostly because of the price of New Economy fares, this package is out of the reach of budgeteers, but it might appeal to you if you need the 38 inches of legroom that New Economy provides. You can certainly do a cheaper week in Wales, but not with 38 inches of legroom on a plane. Fares include -- per person, double occupancy, before tax:

  • From Chicago or DC: $1,599
  • From Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia, Tampa: $1,999
  • From Denver, LA, Phoenix, San Francisco or Seattle: $2,099

BMI's hotel list focuses on historic hotels like the Frommer's-recommended Groes and the Felin Fach Griffin in Brecon.

To check out the hotels, head to http://travelwales.us/bmi and to book, call 866-508-8804.

Do you have a comment or a question about these airlines? Let it out on our popular Message Boards today.