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Blimey! Chicago and D.C. to England from $198

December 11, 2003 -- The City of Big Shoulders will have to call itself the City of Low Fares for a day or two, because bmi (formerly British Midland) is offering flights to London or Manchester, England for a mere $198 plus tax roundtrip (around $330 with tax.) Washingtonians get the same deal.

This is a fare that we generally see only from the East Coast, so Chi-Towners heading to the UK should snap it up as soon as possible. The fare is on sale through Dec. 15 for flights between Jan. 5 and March 31, and requires a Saturday-night stay. (We also suspect there will be more midweek low fares available than weekend fares.)

This fare is unbeatable, $100 below any other fare we could find from Chicago and $50 below other fares from D.C. Book it by calling (800) 788-0555 or asking your local travel agent. The fare isn't available on the Web. Be aware the flight to London isn't direct; you have to change planes in Manchester.

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Bmi has some of the best in-flight entertainment in the business. Individual seatback screens show your choice of 11 movies, 9 TV shows and 33 video games. Kids also get a special pack of goodies for the flight.

If you need a little more room, seats in bmi's "New Economy" cabin are $599 plus tax. New Economy offers 38-inch seat pitch (about six inches more than most economy-class sections) and power ports for laptops. It's a great middle ground for business travelers trying to save money.

Bmi is also offering add-on fares to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen via Manchester for $150 more. Just remember that if you have a few extra hours, you can get train tickets from Manchester Airport directly to Glasgow (3-4 hours) or Edinburgh (4-5 hours) for around £34 ($59.28) roundtrip, if you buy them well in advance at www.scotrail.co.uk.

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