August 11, 2003 -- There may not be pirates in the Carribbean any more, but there's a still battle going on: a battle for your tourist dollar. Spurred on by an official Delta sale, several airlines are duking it out to see who can provide the lowest fares to a swathe of pleasant islands.
The battle was started by Delta, offering low fares online at (www.delta.com/travel/sp_offers/carib_080603/index.jsp). For that deal, you have to buy by August 15 for travel by December 17; fares to most locations are valid Mon-Thu. A 14-day advance purchase and 3-day minimum stay are required, and a broad swathe around Thanksgiving is blacked out. For full details, go to the Delta page linked above.
But when we checked Delta's fares for weeklong trips in December, we found US Airways -- and occasionally other airlines -- to be offering lower fares on many sale routes. This isn't necessarily surprising, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last week (www.post-gazette.com/pg/03218/209185.stm) that US Airways is making aggressive coverage of the Caribbean a major part of their business plan. So don't be surprised if US Airways reacts quickly to other airlines' Caribbean sales.
Meanwhile, AirTran (www.airtran.com), JetBlue (www.jetblue.com) , and Spirit (www.spiritair.com) are all dipping their toes into the Caribbean. AirTran flies from Baltimore to Freeport, in the Bahamas, JetBlue now flies from New York to Puerto Rico, and Spirit flies from Fort Lauderdale and Orlando to Puerto Rico. All three airlines allow connections from the rest of their destinations.
All these options make for a forecast of low fares to the Caribbean this fall, and mean that you'll have to make sure to shop around to find those fares. Use online travel agencies and airlines' own Web sites to make sure you're getting the best deal.
Here's what our research found for Delta's sale routes on random December dates:
- Atlanta-Aruba: Delta $363, US Airways $348
- Boston-Bermuda: Delta $274, US Airways $259
- New York-Curacao: Delta, American $322
- Orlando-Nassau: Delta's $169 was the best fare
- Raleigh-St. Thomas: Delta, US Airways $354
- DC-St. Maarten: Delta's $398 was the best fare
- Chicago-Freeport: Delta $263, US Airways $216
- Baltimore-Grand Cayman: Delta $281, US Airways $266
- Los Angeles-San Juan, PR: Delta $502, ATA $423