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Got it! Thank you! Airfare Deals and News for the Week of October 24, 2008

A last-minute deal to Australia from Qantas, fall deals to Europe from Air France, an extended deal to China from Cathay, and more special offers from the airlines.

Air France Autumn/Winter Webfares

This is pretty spectacular stuff, especially for west coast folks starved for a decent fare to Europe. These Air France (tel. 800/237-2747; webfares are good for departures from October 29 through December 13, and again December 25 through March 25. All fares must be booked by October 29, and tickets must be purchased at least one day prior to departure. Think you can swing that? Let's take a look at a few fares:

For more great fares, check our Paris page, or use our International Search feature to see what's available elsewhere in Europe.

Qantas Last Minute Deals to Australia

Did you hear about the big Qantas (tel. 800/227-4500; A380 that flew from Melbourne to Los Angeles this week? It was quite the affair, with both John Travolta and Olivia Newton John (oh yeah, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villagraigosa) on hand to welcome the flight. And where were you, hmmm? Oh well, you can make it up to yourself with their latest sale, good for departures between October 24 and November 17, as well as in May.

This sale expires October 31 at midnight PT, and fares include:

In some cases, we've found United is matching these fares and even beating on one or two routes. To see our complete listing of fares to Australia, check our Melbourne and Sydney pages.

Cathay Pacific Deal of the Month Extended

Missed out on the Cathay Pacific (tel. 800/233-2742; Deal of the Month? Well, you can stop kicking yourself because they've now extended it through October 31. In case you didn't catch it the first go around, the deal entails travel from Los Angeles, San Fran, and New York to China (Beijing, Changsha, Dalian, Guilin, Hangzhou, Kunming, Nanjing, Ningbo, Qingdao, Sanya, Shanghai, Shenyang, Wuhan, Xiamen, and Xian), starting at $1,014 (for Monday -- Thursday travel) and $1,068 (for Friday -- Sunday travel) before taxes. This sale is good for outbound travel through November 30, and fares (with taxes) include:

Thailand Last-Minute Getaway

Live in the New York or Chicago area and feel like zipping off to Thailand this fall? Korean Air (tel. 800/438-5000; just so happens to have some snazzy last-minute offers to both Bangkok and Chiang Mai. And by last-minute, they mean departing before November 30. All tickets must be purchased by October 31, and fares include:

Hard Times, Schmard Schmimes: You Can Find a Deal

So Southwest Airlines (tel. 800/435-9792; is having promo code sales too? Yep, it's true. Just this week, they offered 50% off fares to/from Buffalo, NY. And all you had to do was enter a little promo code. Unfortunately, that sale ended on Thursday night, but the fares were amazing. Burbank to Buffalo for $131, Buffalo to Baltimore for $61, Columbus to Buffalo $87, Buffalo to Indianapolis $79, San Jose to Buffalo $89, and those are all round-trip! And on many routes, Northwest jumped in and matched or even beat those sale fares. Why are we rubbing it in your face, now that it's over? Just to illustrate a point we've made before. Even in hard times, there are bargain fares to be had. You just have to look for 'em. Sign up for airline newsletters, add their webfare page to your RSS feeds, or, hey, sign up for the Airfarewatchdog newsletter and leave the messy stuff to us.

Relief from Fuel Surcharges

With the recent drop in the price of oil, some European airlines have begun to cut those fuel surcharges that help push the price of an airline ticket into the stratosphere. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa and Air France/KLM have all reduced their surcharges on passenger tickets, while other foreign and domestic carriers, including Northwest, have cut their fuel charges on air cargo. Domestic U.S. carriers however, have been reluctant to make similar reductions, arguing that the price of jet fuel remains too volatile to predict reliably over the next few months. Delta has started to relax surcharges on some international flights, but so far they have been reluctant to do so domestically. Despite lower fuel costs, the industry still expects to post a collective loss of about $6 billion for 2008. Robert Menendez, a Democratic Senator from New Jersey sent a letter to 11 U.S. airlines on Monday requesting they discontinue the surcharges and other fuel-related fees. "I urge you to pass the savings from lower jet fuel prices on to the American public by rolling back fuel surcharges and extra fees," Mr. Menendez said in his letter. "If you tell the public that you need long-term higher prices to survive, I urge you at the very least to do it directly through fares, rather than a collection of confusing and hidden fees." While it looks like new fees for things like baggage, food, drinks and pillows and blankets are here to stay, passengers may get a reprieve from fuel surcharges in the near future. Now that the price of oil is dropping, should US domestic carriers respond in kind and reduce or eliminate the fuel surcharge? Let us know.

Deciphering Airline Fare Codes

Recently, we got an email from Ken, who wrote that he had bought a round-trip ticket from Atlanta to Kuwait from Northwest Airlines, operated by KLM, for the bargain basement price of $1,175 round-trip (this fare usually starts at $1,500). Knowing that a low fare like this would be heavily restricted, he assumed he'd pay a penalty plus the difference in the fare if he needed to change his flight dates. But he didn't expect to be told, "Use it or lose it" by the airline when he tried to make a change, over a week in advance, to fly a day later than his ticket was scheduled. As in: No changes, not even for a penalty, and if you purposely "miss" your flight? No stored value for you. (Incidentally, there were seats available at the same price on the later flight)? We contacted NWA's call center to ask about the flight and were told, "Well, it was a 'T' fare, so of course he couldn't store the value." Actually, this isn't quite accurate. We checked with NWA spokesperson Michelle Aguayo-Shannon, who confirmed that, while T class fares are usually quite restricted, they're not always "use it or lose it." The lesson here: While it would have been smart to thoroughly check the restrictions first, one class of airfare doesn't always hold the same restrictions within even a single airline. And one airline's "T" fare class could be another airline's "K."? Sound confusing? It can be. And it's certainly possible to simply cruise through airfare booking, never learning a thing about fare codes. But there are a couple of reasons to familiarize yourself with the basics. More on this here in our blog.

Additional Reporting by Tracy W. Stewart

George Hobica is a syndicated travel journalist and blogger whose website,, tracks unadvertised airfare wars and fare sales, including the most helpful and always updated Top 50 Airfares.

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