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Flash Fare! UAL & NW Duke it out Over Routes to Hawaii

United and Northwest are in a mini fare war from their hubs to Honolulu. Detroit and Minneapolis to Hawaii are currently at $282 roundtrip for travel Tuesday-Thursday, without advance purchase required, through December 14, on United; travel other days of the week is $50 more round-trip. Northwest is selling Chicago and Denver, United hubs, to Honolulu for $301 roundtrip, Tuesday-Thursday only, $50 more other days, although seats are hard to find so use a flexible fare search. These fares are in some cases half of what you'd normally pay. There is no listed buy-by date, so this unadvertised sale could end at any time.

Excellent Sale to Asia on United

United (tel. 800/241-6522; www.united.com) is having a 4-day Southeast Asia sale and in most cases the fares are a lot less than any other airline is charging. Travel outbound any day of the week except Saturdays in October; return through November 30 with a three-day minimum stay. Boston to Singapore is $798 round-trip for instance ($866 with taxes). San Francisco to Bangkok is $735 round-trip with taxes on United while Cathay, the next cheapest carrier, is charging at least $200 more. So these are really good deals. You may have better luck finding seats using Travelocity's flexible fare search, although seats are readily available at the sale fares. Purchase by September 30.

Holiday Fares from Hawaii to the Mainland

Each year at this time the airlines, including United, announce holiday fares from Hawaii to the Mainland. Travel dates are very weird, and seem to vary with airline and arrival city (most all airlines are matching United's fares...take your pick). Seats are scattered and very hard to find for specific dates so in order to avoid tearing out your hair, just use a flexible date search on Travelocity or Cheapair. In general, plan on staying a long time, like two weeks, since these fares don't seem to work for short visits. These fares do not work in reverse (e.g., Boston to Honolulu) by the way, even though Travelocity lists them in reverse if you do a flexible date search. But try booking them: you'll get nowhere.

Frontier Airlines Sale between Denver and the Pacific Northwest

Frontier Airlines (tel. 800/432-1359; www.frontierairlines.com) is having a sale to/from Denver. Round-trip fares include: Anchorage ($268), Billings ($142), Boise ($208), Portland, OR ($198) and Spokane ($228). Seats are available, and are all considerably lower than what's available on other airlines at present. A 14-day advance purchase is required for travel Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from October 11 through December 14. Tickets must be purchased by September 29.

Southwest Sale to/from Orlando and Tampa

Southwest (tel. 800/435-9792; www.southwest.com) is offering their weekly sale, and this week it's Orlando and Tampa, with fares ranging from $34 one-way (to/from cities within Florida) to $124 one-way (to/from cities out West, including, Burbank, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Seattle and more). Fares are readily available, and most of them are good, although the coast-to-coast fares aren't the lowest available right now if you're buying a round-trip. Round-trip purchase not required. 21-day advance purchase for travel through February 3, 2005. Tickets must be purchased by September 29.

Japan Sale on American and United

Both American (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) and United (800/241-6522; www.united.com) are having a sale to Japan for purchase through September 30. Travel outbound is through November 30. The minimum stay is six days on United and 3 on American. Travel Mon-Thu at the lowest fares; slightly higher weekends. Max stay is 30 days. Most fares are under $700 round-trip plus taxes. Fares listed on United's site for this sale are actually higher than what we found on United via Travelocity on certain routes. For example, United lists Chicago to Tokyo for $379 each way before taxes (double for round-trip which is required). But we found that route for $700 round-trip with taxes on United via Travelocity on several itineraries.

Meanwhile, American is having a Web sale from Chicago to Nagoya for $385 round-trip and from San Jose, CA to Tokyo for $505 round-trip, both plus taxes, in its weekly International Getaways Sale. Purchase by midnight September 30 for outbound travel October 5-7 and return travel October 10-12.

ATA Great Fall Sale

ATA (tel. 800/225-2995; www.ata.com) is having a good sale -- well, actually it is great -- especially to/from Honolulu and to/from Minneapolis, although other cities are covered. Lowest fares are Monday-Thursday, slightly higher weekends. A one-week trip from Manchester, NH to Honolulu leaving November 10 and returning a week later, with connecting service on Southwest, will set you back $546 round-trip during this sale. Same dates on Delta would be $683 round-trip or $1,013 on United. A big savings, obviously. A 10-day advance purchase is required; book by October 2 and complete all travel by December 14.

American's Sale to Chile Leaves Us Cold

American (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) has announced a sale to Santiago, Chile. We found considerably lower prices on many routes via other airlines, although in some cases there were long layovers for connecting flights on the cheaper airlines. For example, Avianca will fly you from JFK to Santiago on Oct 11, returning Oct 19, for $650 RT with all taxes/fees (base price is $569 round-trip) but with a connecting time of 7 hours outbound and 11 on the return. But that's compared with American's advertised price in this sale of $869 round-trip before taxes. Also, American's deal is good only for travel through Nov 30; other airlines have lower fares for travel during a much wider period.

In fact, however, you can probably find fares for less than what American is advertising, even on American, using Travelocity and other booking engines. For an October 4 departure from Miami to Santiago, returning Oct 11, we found $847 all-included on Aeromexico (admittedly with a change of planes in Mexico City), $982 round-trip nonstop on Lan Chile, or $1132 nonstop on American. So it looks like American is charging more than some other airlines to Santiago these days.

At Last, Airline Route Maps All In One Place

Why hasn't someone done this before? It seems like the proverbial no brainer: links to many of the world's airlines route maps in one place.

Airfarewatchdog.com now lists, with commentary, direct links to over 50 airline route maps, including those for airlines that many people may never have heard of, such as Trans-Meridian and Caribbean Star.

Sure, if you're looking for American Airlines' route map you can go to www.aa.com and search for it. But, while you'd think that airlines would make their route maps easy to find, in reality they don't. Often they're buried in the sub-basement of their Web sites. Sometimes, as in the case of German discounter LTU, it appears that no one bothered to design an online route map at all. In contrast, CanJet, a small Canadian carrier, puts its route map on the front page of its site (way to go!). You don't even have to click on a link. But that's the exception to the rule. Curiously, there is no other site that consolidates links directly to the airlines' official sites, although the appropriately named Airlineroutemaps provides snapshots (in some cases photographs) of printed route maps for many airlines. Even so, it doesn't link directly to the airlines' sites, many of which now have interactive system maps. And if you're an aviation buff, check out Airchive.com where you can see the history of over 30 airlines as told through their route maps and schedules. Read the ad copy under this 1936 American Airlines map, touting their "delicious hot meals...at no cost...which otherwise would have to be paid for at 75c to $1.25 each" and have a good laugh...or cry.

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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