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Spirit, AirTran Keep It Real With Low U.S. Fares

October 6, 2003 -- We probably haven't praised Spirit and AirTran in the past month or so, so let us do it now. The often-repeated sales from these two airlines play an important role in keeping airfares low for everyone in the US, and their fares are always worth looking into for budget travelers.

Airfares in general are a bit higher right now than they were a few months ago, so it's good to see these two airlines keepin' it real.

Spirit won a lottery for two new flight slots at Washington's Reagan National Airport, and they're celebrating with low fares from there to and from Fort Lauderdale and San Juan, PR. Reagan National is by far the most convenient airport for DC residents and visitors to the nation's capital, with its easy access to the Metro subway system.

Beginning on Nov. 13, Spirit will fly twice a day to Fort Lauderdale, continuing on to San Juan. Introductory fares (roundtrip, before tax) are $134 to Fort Lauderdale and $246 to Puerto Rico, and they're good for travel through Feb. 6. The San Juan fare is the lowest by far we've seen for that route; AirTran is matching the Fort Lauderdale fare with its own sale. Buy tickets at by Oct. 23 to get these fares. Holiday weekends are blacked out.

AirTran, meanwhile, is thinking bigger with a system-wide sale. These fares are available until Oct. 9 for flights through Feb. 5; they require a seven-day advance purchase and don't apply on Sunday flights (though they do apply on Fridays, which is rare.) Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's periods are blacked out. Hey, they have to make money somewhere. Fares we like include (all roundtrip, before tax):

  • Boston-Philadelphia: $68 -- it's still cheaper than the train!
  • Baltimore-Milwaukee: $98
  • Atlanta-San Francisco: $198
  • Dallas-Orlando: $168
  • Miami or Tallahassee-Tampa: $78
  • Philadelphia-Fort Lauderdale: $168

Find more sale fares and book online at

AirTran's sales usually generate a froth of competition, so make sure to shop around on these fares. Delta and US Airways, for instance, are matching AirTran's Boston-Philly fare. Delta and American are matching AirTran's deal on the Dallas-Orlando route. And JetBlue is theoretically beating AirTran's fare on the Atlanta-San Francisco route with a $158 sale, but when we searched, we found them matching AirTran on most dates.

Still, we encourage you to book with AirTran, Spirit and other small airlines if at all possible. Without their presence in the air travel market, fares would be much higher. By flying with small airlines, you're doing your own part to keep things real.