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Fares Get Honed for the Holidays, European Flights Reduced -- London from $179

November 4 -- It's officially on: Northwest Airlines announced the first airfare sale for the 2005 holiday season and Orbitz followed quickly with sale fares across several carriers. It's the busiest time of year to fly in the US and seats get gobbled up quickly, so let's get down to it.

Northwest (tel. 800/225-2525; includes on its details page ( a handy three month calendar that breaks dates into one of three categories based on popularity and pricing -- the more heavily trafficked a date is, the more expensive it will be. One great thing about this schedule is that you can apply it to Orbitz's sale or any other booking site.

The cheapest dates to fly are:

  • November 21 (Sun)
  • November 22 (Mon)
  • November 25 (Thu, Thanksgiving Day)
  • November 26 (Fri)
  • December 25 (Sat, Christmas Day)
  • January 5 (Wed)

Mid-range fare dates fall on:

  • November 18-20 (Thu - Sat)
  • November 30 (Tues)
  • December 16-20 (Thu - Mon)
  • December 28-29 (Tue - Wed)
  • December 31-Jan 1 (Fri - Sat)
  • January 4 & 6-31, excluding all Sundays

Most expensive dates to fly are:

  • November 23-24 (Tue - Wed)
  • November 27-29 (Sat - Mon)
  • December 21-22 (Tue - Wed)
  • December 26-27 & 30 (Sun, Mon & Wed)
  • January 3 (Mon)

Pricing is all over the place, depending upon your route and the dates you choose to fly. We suggest starting with the cheapest dates (which means you'll be flying on actual holidays) to see what comes up and work from there. Tickets are on sale until seats are sold out or November 19, whichever comes first; the travel period is from November 18, 2004 to January 31, 2005. Blackout dates for sale fares include December 1-15 and 23, and January 2. A 7-day advanced purchase is required, a Saturday stay is required, and an extra $5 is charged if you buy over the phone (who does that these days?).

Orbitz ( is featuring a similar sale on flights for American, Continental, Delta, Northwest and USAir, also with a November 19 buy by date. A 7-day advance purchase and roundtrip ticket are required. Go to the site and click the "Joy to World" logo to start searching for your routes.

Not Necessarily Noël, Just Darned Cheap

Go to 1800flyeurope's page to find roundtrip airfare to London out of Boston for an astoundingly low $179! Want Paris instead? That fare starts from $257 out of Boston. Other sample fares include:

  • Cincinnati to Munich $329
  • Chicago to Rome $309
  • Dallas to Madrid $337
  • Orlando to Amsterdam $317
  • San Francisco to Milan $397

Call 800/359-3876 or go to . Flights to Brussels, Frankfurt, Zurich and other eurofaves are available, too. Tickets must be purchased by November 11 November 30 with travel good all the way through March 17, 2005 (excluding December 12-24). Please note that sample prices do not include taxes or applicable fees.

Have you purchased your flights through these companies and have a comment? Are you flying over the upcoming holidays? Where are you finding the best prices? Tell us on our Air Travel Message Boards today.