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March 22, 2004 -- After a long winter of depression, America's airlines are expanding again.

New routes mean more competition and lower fares for everyone. We've been recounting a lot of the new routes in our newsletters over the past few months, and letting a lot of others slide. The arrival of Southwest and Frontier in Philadelphia is probably the biggest news of the year so far, and it's already brought truly brotherly fares to the City of Brotherly Love.

Behind the scenes, airlines have been bulking up their schedules all over. This week alone, we've heard about new service on United from Washington to Zurich and Sacramento and from Chicago to Osaka and Buenos Aires, and service on American from Miami to St. Lucia. JetBlue recently announced new service from San Jose, California to New York City, and Southwest keeps "connecting the dots" with nonstop flights between their various cities.

One of the most exciting trends, though, is how low-fare airlines are coming to smaller cities, giving people who live in these less populous burgs (or who want to visit them) new non-stop options. Many of these new routes are on the scrappy B-team of airlines, carriers like Southeast and USA 3000 that specialize in no-frills, low-cost (but safe) service. But some are from the A-list budget airlines -- carriers like Frontier, Spirit, JetBlue and America West.

We've rounded up a bunch of announcements here that we think represent the best new routes in terms of bringing low fares to the previously un-served. All these routes are on sale right now, so feel free to book your tickets.

From

To

Airline

Start date

Round-trip fare

Baton Rouge, LA

Las Vegas

Allegiant Air

May 10

$178

Billings, MT

Denver

Frontier

May 23

$198

Bismarck, ND

Las Vegas

Allegiant Air

May 3

$198

Cancun, Mexico

Fort Lauderdale

Spirit Air

Dec. 18, 03

$188

Cleveland, OH

Ft. Myers, FL

USA 3000

May 7

$178

Gary, IN

Sanford, FL

Southeast

May 11

$138

Kalispell, MT

Phoenix

America West

June 1

On sale 3/21

Myrtle Beach, SC

Ft. Myers, FL

Hooters Air

Dec. 18, 03

$198

Myrtle Beach, SC

Nassau, Bahamas

Hooters Air

Dec. 18, 03

$198

Peoria, IL

Las Vegas

Allegiant Air

March 3

$178

Sacramento, CA

New York

JetBlue

May 4

$238

Sacramento, CA

Washington

JetBlue

May 4

$198

Sioux Falls, SD

Las Vegas

Allegiant Air

May 6

$198

Spokane, WA

Denver

Frontier

May 23

$198

Trenton, NJ

Bedford, MA

Boston-Maine

March 29

$198

Allegiant (www.allegiantair.com), Boston-Maine (www.bmairways.com), USA 3000, (www.usa3000.com), Southeast (www.flyseal.com) and JetBlue (www.jetblue.com) never show up on travel agency sites, and you'll probably get lower fares from the Web sites of Spirit (www.spiritair.com), Hooters (www.hootersair.com) and Frontier (www.flyfrontier.com) than you will from agencies, so make sure to check the airlines' Web sites as well as your favorite omnibus site for good fares.

We're sure the major airlines will strain to match the discounters' fares, but you should buy from the smaller airlines whenever possible -- after all, if they weren't in the business, the large airlines wouldn't lower their fares to match.

Do you have a question or a comment on this report? Are you able to take advantage of these new routes? Share yoru thoughts on our Air Travel Message Boards.