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February 25, 2004 -- We should really just type up some boilerplate for this. Time was, a $198 cross-country fare sale was a cause for rejoicing, for hollering, for sacrificing to strange and profane gods. (Okay, maybe not the last one.) But now sub-$200 cross-country fares seem to fly by like flocks of geese heading to wherever it is geese flock to. If you intend to travel across the USA, this spring is a great time to do it.

We expect the many, many $198 cross-country fares out there to be duplicated by all competing airlines, so your best bet is to check the various online travel agency sites and choose based on flight times, nonstop routings or who you have frequent-flier miles on. Still, though, we'll give you a few sales to get started.

US Airways is selling flights on most routes between the East Coast (but not New York City) and Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix for $198 roundtrip. You must fly by August 7, and no spring breakin' between March 18 and April 11 in Florida is allowed. To book, go to www.usairways.com/pro/specials/west_best.htm -- but remember to compare other airlines' fares first!

American Airlines' sale looks more limited. Their $198 fare covers the following routes:

  • New York -- Long Beach, Orange County or San Jose, CA
  • LA -- Austin, Fort Lauderdale, Hartford, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Nashville, Norfolk, Orlando, San Antonio or West Palm Beach

The New York fares apply on flights between now and May 27; the LA fares, on flights between now and August 7. Travel to Florida between March 18 and April 11, of course, is blacked out. Book online at www.aa.com.

AirTran's sale, which is matched by Delta, offers discounts to and from Atlanta -- Denver, LA and San Francisco are all $198. Those fares don't apply on Fridays and Sundays. Buy by March 4 for travel through August 22 at www.airtran.com.

JetBlue's $198 fares connect New York to Sacramento, Long Beach and Oakland, link Boston to Long Beach and Denver and connect Long Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Buy by March 5 for travel by May 27 at www.jetblue.com, and remember, JetBlue's fares don't show up on travel agency sites.

Both Southwest and Frontier are starting service to Philadelphia soon, and that means a slew of $198 fares to and from that city. Frontier's contribution is a $198 fare to/from Los Angeles. Buy by March 18 for travel after May 23, any day of the week, at www.flyfrontier.com.

Southwest's sale is vast, covering all their markets: they're offering fares of $198 or lower to and from any of their dozens of cities, except Orange County, Calif. Naturally, many of these fares will have sold out already, and Florida is blocked out between 3/18 and 4/11. But if you're finding $198 fares on routes like Philly-Seattle, Raleigh-Portland, OR, and Jacksonville-Oakland, CA, Southwest's sale is what's causing them to happen. Southwest's fares don't show up on travel agency sites, so go to www.southwest.com by March 4 to book these fares -- but do compare them to other airlines' rates, because Southwest may stick you on a two-connection flight when other airlines have one connection or a nonstop.