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Aim for the Sun With Low Florida Fares

September 24, 2003 -- Easterners seem to have had a lot of problems with artificial lights this summer: first several states were blacked out in August, and now folks from Maryland to North Carolina are struggling to get the lights turned on after Hurricane Isabel.

So maybe it's a good time to start looking for natural light -- and where's better than Florida? Several airlines are offering low fares for travel during the peak winter travel season to Florida, making this a good time to buy.

Official and overlapping sales are coming from American Airlines, Delta, Northwest, US Airways and ATA. Most require that you purchase by Sept. 26 (Northwest's lasts until Sept. 28), and all are blacked out over holiday periods -- that means if you're hoping to get down to Fort Lauderdale for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's, you'll find fares somewhat higher. The ATA fares are good for flights before Dec. 17; Northwest fares are good for flights through Jan. 31, and the other three sales work on flights through Feb. 12.

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However, when we comparison-shopped, we found even lower fares than the advertised sales on many routes. The advertised sale fares were great, but the fares that we later found were unbelievable. Some fares we found, including all taxes and fees:

  • Indianapolis-Tampa: $120 (Northwest); $125 (Delta, ATA, American, US Airways)
  • New York-Fort Lauderdale: $138 (Spirit); $144.50 (Northwest)
  • Washington DC-Fort Lauderdale: $131.50 (JetBlue, American)
  • New York-A whole bunch of Florida cities: $141.50 (JetBlue)
  • Dayton-Orlando: $157.50 (Northwest)
  • Greensboro-Orlando: $151 (Delta, Northwest)
  • Washington DC-West Palm Beach: $157.50 (Delta, Northwest, US Airways)
  • Dallas-Orlando: $177 (Northwest); $181.50 (Delta, AirTran)

In many cases, paying slightly more for a fare can get you a non-stop rather than a one-stop flight. And if Orbitz is your comparison-shopping site of choice, beware that they've been playing favorites recently. They charge a $6 service fee for most airlines, but only $1.50 for Northwest flights, making Northwest appear cheaper when they're actually just at par with the competition.

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Whichever airline you choose to fly with, though, it's a great time to book flights to Florida. Shop around and enjoy the sun.

For comparison shopping and booking, visit these individual carrier sites:

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Consumers should always compare fares between these online booking sites as well: Expedia (www.expedia.com), Orbitz (www.orbitz.com), Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) and QIXO (www.qixo.com) followed up with fare compares using downloadable apps such as ITASoftware (www.itasoftware.com) and Sidestep (www.sidestep.com).

 

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