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Spirit Airlines Quietly Ditches Its 800 Number, Domestic Airfares Are Down to Many Popular Destinations, and More Airline News

What's the difference between 800 and 801? The first is a toll-free call, and the second is an area code in Utah. Which does Spirit Airlines use for its reservations number? The one that has customers footing the bill, of course.

I have to give thanks for that bit of intel to a Florida reader who alerted me the change. (I don't know when it happened). And you have to give chutzpah points to Spirit, the airline that seems to have mastered the art of squeezing every last penny from customers.

Prices down for summer?

In better news, Scott McCartney of the Wall Street Journal is reporting that airfares to a number of domestic destinations are down, and down steeply, in the coming months. Deepest drop is to and from Chicago; passengers will 18% less than last summer, according to Orbitz. Other cities that have also seen price drops include Honolulu, New York City, Tampa, Denver and Washington, DC. 

When I interviewed McCartney for our radio show, he attributed the declines to an increase in bookings to the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe over the same time period.

Will the fares remain low domestically? That's anybody's guess, so the advice is: book now if you're thinking of flying this summer. A sudden hitch in gas prices, or a late-booking spree, could easily up the fares.

The drinks are on Southwest

And here's a bit of odd-ball news: Southwest Airlines is soon going to owe millions of passengers free cocktails.

The back story: Southwest Airlines used to gift its 'premium ticket' passengers with drink coupons for alcoholic beverages. Problem was, a lot of passengers started photo-copying the vouchers, and so, in 2010, the airline abruptly stopped honoring them. That led to a class action suit against the Southwest (since the vouchers had no expiration date) and just this week the airline settled. Which means it could be on the hook for $29 million dollars worth of beer, wine and high balls. Here's Business Insider's take on the settlement, and how consumers can potentially belly up to the sky bar.