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March 26, 2004 -- Winter in Australia means mild weather and super-cool fares. Temperatures in Sydney in May hover in the 60s, temperatures in Brisbane are typically in the low 70s, and the mercury in Cairns settles in the high 70s. Temperatures drop, and so do the airfares, which are starting to dip below $800 roundtrip before taxes and fees.

That's what we're seeing right now from Qantas for flights in May to Oz and New Zealand, and those fares make low season a great time to travel. Fares from the following cities to Sydney, Christchurch, Wellington or Queenstown include:

  • From Los Angeles: $798
  • From San Francisco or San Jose: $930
  • From Las Vegas or San Diego: $940
  • From Seattle: $1,080
  • From New York: $1,098
  • From Portland: $1,115
  • From Dallas or Denver: $1,195
  • From Chicago: $1,235
  • From Boston, Newark, Miami or DC: $1,260

For fares to Auckland, subtract $100 from the prices above; for fares to Melbourne or Brisbane, add $100; for Cairns, add $200.

The only real Qantas flights on this list are from LA and New York; everyone else will get shipped to LA on American or Alaska Airlines, with a guaranteed connection to their Qantas flight. These fares are considerably lower than current direct fares on other airlines.

As always, you can game these fares a little. It's possible to find $200 domestic roundtrips between Chicago and LA that could bring a Chicago fare down to $1000, and people in Boston and DC can save at least $100 by taking cheap buses to New York. You lose the convenience of guaranteed connections if you pull these tricks, though, so it's up to you whether the savings is worth it.

For a little more money, you can get even more flexible. $100 garners you a stopover in LA, Auckland, or (for flights to Australia) Fiji. No matter where you're stopping, though, you must stay a total of between 7 days and a month away from home.

If you're interested, book by April 8 online at www.qantasusa.com/webDeals/162 for Australia and www.qantasusa.com/webDeals/163 for New Zealand.