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Weekend Deals Round-Up

Some of the airline weekend deals are already posted, such as American's (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) domestic this weekend, domestic next weekend and international next weekend fares. AA has gotten stingy in recent years with its weekend deals and often they're less than stellar. Take Newark/Boston next weekend for $199round-trip. If you live in New York City,you're better off flying on JetBlue on those dates using their regular fares at $80round-trip! However, New York/San Diego at $189round-trip next (not this coming) weekend is good on AA as is Newark/Chicago at $89round-trip.

United (tel. 800/241-6522; www.united.com) has tons of new fares, too, for travel this weekend or next.

You've sometimes got to be an early bird to catch Continental's (tel. 800/525-0280; www.continental.com) deals, which this week include Newark/Nashville for $99 round-trip and Raleigh or Richmond to Newark for $78 round-trip.

And Delta (tel. 800/221-1212; www.delta.com) has a bunch, too, mostly to/from its Atlanta, Salt Lake City and Cincinnati hubs, but also including Austin to New York for $158round-trip. And just a reminder with these weekenders: they are combinable. If you live in Florence, SC and want to visit Tupelo, MS there's no direct fare listed this weekend. But there are fares from Florence to Atlanta, ($108round-trip) and Atlanta to Tupelo ($108round-trip), so in fact there is a last minute weekend Florence/Tupelo fare with a connection in Atlanta.

$0 Business Class Fares to Canada

Now don't get all excited: they're long gone. But in the wee hours of New Year's Day, Air Canada (www.aircanada.com) had the mother of all fare mistakes, selling business class fares from dozens of U.S. cities to many Canadian cities for exactly $0 plus tax. Honolulu to Toronto: $0. Seattle to Vancouver: $0. The Canadian carrier caught on within an hour and seems to have shut down their site entirely rather than continue to sell these fares, but not before several happy flyers booked quite a few seats.

Europe Sale Fares Start from $320 Round-Trip

Air France (tel. 800/237-2747; www.airfrance.us) is having a big sale to Europe from all their U.S. gateways: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington. The sale isn't bad, but depending on destination, you might be able to get a lower fare on other airlines. Sample fares with departure on January 19 and return on January 26: for New York JFK or Newark to Paris, the fare (including taxes and fees) is $414 round-trip, but US Airways is offering the that route for a $302 round-trip fare (true, it requires a change of plane in Philadelphia, compared to Air France's non-stop service); Boston to Barcelona is $544.73 round-trip with the sale, but Delta is offering $490 round-trip (non-stop or with a plane change depending on the flights, versus non-stop on Air France). However, if you're flying between Los Angeles and Turin, Italy, departing on February 9 and returning on February 16 (in time for the Winter Olympics), the sale fare is $622 while the next lowest fare is $905 on Lufthansa. Availability is still good for this sale. Travel Monday through Thursday for the lowest available fares because weekend travel tends to be $10 to $40 more each way. Sunday minimum and 1 month maximum stay. Seven-day advance purchase required for travel through March 31, 2006, and tickets must be purchased by January 10, 2006.

Independence Goes Bust

After 18 months of giving the major airlines a run for their money, Independence Air (tel. 800/359-3594; www.flyi.com) will cease all operations on Thursday evening, January 5, 2006. As of this writing, the company is seeking bankruptcy court approval to automatically refund customers with reservations for flights scheduled to depart beyond that time. If you have a round-trip reservation departing (or have departed) before Thursday, but are scheduled to return afterwards, you'll be contacted by Independence Air and offered the option to change your return to one of the remaining days of operation (all change fees will be waived). The company is also seeking bankruptcy court approval to automatically refund customers for those return flights that are not rescheduled. If you want more information you should visit the airline's Web site, as the airline's toll-free number will undoubtedly have long wait times. If you bought your ticket with a credit card, be sure to contest the charges in writing within 60 days of receiving your statement. You should be absolved of paying the charge under Federal law. Also, Federal law requires that any other airline flying a route for which you hold an Independence Air ticket fly you on a standby basis for $50 each way.

Post-New Year's Sale via Airtran

AirTran (tel. 800/247-8726; www.airtran.com) is having a huge sale covering all their destinations (including Grand Bahama Island) with fares starting as low as $39 one-way (round-trip purchase not required). As always, AirTran sales are the real deal (with a few not so good fares thrown in here and there): Boston to/from Dallas, for instance, is $99 one-way during the sale (US Airways currently matching) versus $139 one-way on United (although yesterday United had that route for $148 round-trip in a sneak sale); Chicago Midway to/from Freeport, Grand Bahama Island is $99 one-way versus $139 one-way on Delta; Las Vegas or Los Angeles to/from Atlanta is $119 one-way, and is matched by Delta, Frontier, US Airways and United (but not necessarily with the same non-stop service AirTran offers); and so on. Typically the coast-to-coast fares aren't as good as the shorter hops: San Francisco to/from New York LaGuardia is $149 one-way, but on Travelocity you can find an ATA fare for $99 one-way albeit with different restrictions. For the lowest fares, travel Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday for travel through May 24, 2006, except to/from Florida and Freeport, travel through March 1. Fares are higher on other days, and this sale doesn't apply for Sunday travel. A 10-day advance purchase is required. Blackouts fall on February 17 & 20 and April 7, 8, 13, 14 & 17, 2006. Tickets must be purchased by 11:59 EST on January 17, 2006. We expect other airlines to match this sale on many routes, although they may require a round-trip purchase.

Spirit's Winter Sale

Spirit Airlines (tel. 800/772-7117; www.spiritair.com) is having a huge winter travel sale between all cities it serves. Fares start as low as $78 round-trip plus tax round-trip between Ft Lauderdale and either Nassau or Punta Cana, DR (compared to $108 round-trip on American, but AA's fare is for travel through February 9 only compared to Spirit's April 30 last day of travel). Other great, round-trip fares included in this sale are:

  • Detroit to St Thomas for $358 (versus $508 on Delta)
  • Atlantic City to/from West Palm Beach $218 (versus $260 on Delta)
  • Providence, RI to Cancun for $198 (versus $236 on Delta, United and US Airways)
  • Chicago to San Juan for $278 (versus $307 on Northwest)

However, some fares are either matched or lower on other airlines via Travelocity: Chicago to Cancun is $298 round-trip in the sale, whereas Delta and United are offering that route for $198 round-trip; Atlanta to/from Ft Lauderdale is $128 round-trip with the Spirit sale but it's $118 round-trip on AirTran, Delta and US Airways; and Atlanta to Cancun is $178 round-trip, but is matched by Northwest. The sale is for travel on Tuesday and Wednesday (travel Monday or Thursday is $20 more each-way and travel Friday through Sunday is $40 more each way) through April 30, 2006, and the ends on 11:59PM EST on January 9, 2006. Blackouts from mainland U.S. are February 16-20, 2006, and blackouts to mainland U.S. are February 18-20 & 24- 26, 2006.

Alaska Air's Discounts on Fares and Award Travel

Alaska Airlines (tel. 800/252-7522; www.alaskaair.com) is offing a $60 one-way fare (round-trip purchase not required) for travel between Seattle and Kamloops, British Columbia, which is a great deal, as the next lowest fare offered by Alaska is $162 one-way, and the lowest fare on another airline is $172 on Air Canada. Where on Earth is Kamloops? What's going on there? It's the home of Sun Peaks Resort, a ski destination with 3,678 acres of ski terrain -- the third largest in Canada. This sale is for travel through April 2, 2006, and requires a seven-day advance purchase. Flights will be serviced by Horizon Airlines.

Alaska is having another sale between Washington State airports it serves and various destinations in California, including Burbank, Fresno, Orange County, Long Beach, San Diego and Santa Barbara. Although seats may be a bit hard to find at times on certain routes, the savings are real. For example, checking flights from Pullman, WA to Ontario, CA leaving Jan 17 and returning a week later, the lowest fare we could find on Travelocity was $306 round-trip with taxes. But on Alaksaairlines.com the fare for those dates was $230 round-trip. That's a nice savings. Alaska continues to offer its lowest fares, at times, only on its own site. The sale ends January 9 and travel is valid between January 4 and February 8, 2006.

The carrier is offering a discount on award travel for a limited time. This promotion will allow travelers to book an award travel ticket between the Northern California cities of Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, or Sacramento and any cities in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and Washington State for only 15,000 miles instead of the usual 20,000 miles. Travel for this promotion is valid through March 15, 2006, except between February 17 and 20.

Big Southwest Sale for Portland, OR

Southwest Airlines' (tel. 800/435-9792; www.southwest.com) weekly Click 'n Save specials are highlighting Portland, OR this week, but many other destinations are included, some competitors are matching, and Southwest actually has lower published Internet fares than they list in this sale, which is odd. Portland to/from Cleveland & Columbus, OH and Ft. Lauderdale is $114 one-way, no round-trip purchase required (versus $138 one-way on major airlines, $129 one-way on US Airways and $126 one-way on Continental); and Portland to/from Sacramento, CA and Spokane, WA are $34 one-way (versus $44 one-way on Alaska and $49 one-way on United). Some of the fares are higher than what's available from other airlines: For example, Continental and US Airways offer a $94 one-way fare to/from Baltimore, whereas Southwest's sale is at $124 one-way; to/from Oakland, CA is $74 one-way on Alaska versus $89 one-way on Southwest; and Portland to/from Orlando is $99 one-way on Alaska, Continental and US Airways versus $124 one-way in this Southwest sale. However Southwest also has a lower $99 one-way fare that is not listed (use the Southwest Shortcut flexible travel date tool to find the lowest fares at www.southwest.com/cgi-bin/lowFareFinderEntry). Fares range from $34 to $124 one-way and as always you may do better with a Southwest Ding fare. Purchase by January 5, midnight Pacific Time; travel January 24 through June 9, 2006 (some of the lower fares currently only have travel through May); and comply with the 21-day advance purchase requirement. These fares are available only on Southwest's site.

Additional report 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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