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See Snow on Mount Fuji For Fewer Yen

December 15, 2003 -- For trips to Japan, our magic numbers are generally 500 and 600 -- that is, $500 from the West Coast and $600 from the East. This week, three airlines have stepped up with fares that easily pass our thresholds for great deals.

The first sale is from United. There are good reasons to fly United to Asia. While Asian airlines may be more famous for their service, one roundtrip to Japan will get you about half way to a free domestic ticket with United. United's $510 fare from New York to Tokyo is unbeatable, a good $100 below any other fare we could find. Other sale fares that we think are worth noticing (all to Tokyo, roundtrip before about $70 tax):

  • Los Angeles: $480
  • San Francisco: $558
  • Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego: $598
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Flights from Boston, Washington, Denver, Atlanta and Houston are all $678-738, still quite good. These fares are on sale through Dec. 31 for flights between Jan. 12 and March 31 on Mondays-Thursdays, and a Saturday night stay is required. If these fares thrill you, buy them online at www.united.com/page/article/0,1360,50074,00.html.

Californians have an even better choice: Korean Air is offering a breathtaking $439 roundtrip fare, one of the lowest we've seen -- ever. Don't let the name fool you -- there's no stop in Seoul here.

To get the $439 fare on these non-stop flights, you must buy your ticket by Dec. 31 and fly between Jan. 10 and March 21. Book online only at www.koreanair.com. This fare is not available through other online travel agents.

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Unlike the United sale, you get no frequent flier miles for this ticket, so take that into account. If the 10,000 United FF miles you'd get would bump you over to having a free domestic ticket, we think that's well worth the extra $40. If miles mean nothing to you, then you'll have 40 extra clams ready to spend.

Rounding out our trio, Thai Airways has an unannounced sale with low fares on their LA-Tokyo nonstop. Their magic number is $460, which we found on www.thaiairways.com. This fare is good for travel between Jan. 6 and March 21, on Monday-Thursday flights. A seven-day advance purchase and three-day minimum stay are required.

When we searched on major travel agency sites, we found each one of these three airlines come into its own on various dates. Depending on who's sold out for which day, any of these three fares may be the lowest available, so make sure to check your favorite agency site and all three airlines' sites to compare.

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