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What's the Deal: Good News . . . and Bad

Carol Sottili

First the good news. Virgin America has launched a fare sale from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles or San Francisco. Fare on the nonstop flights is $119 each way: round-trip fare with taxes is about $273.

While we've seen cheaper, the flights are nonstop, planes are new and each seat sports a 9-inch video screen with 25 movie choices, live TV, video games, 3,000 MP3s, in-flight food ordering (no, food isn't free) and even seat-to-seat chat. So for a long flight, at least you won't be totally bored. Sale fare is a savings of about $120 over the airline's usual cheapest fares.

And for some unknown reason, when I checked out the fare to Los Angeles at this morning, the Virgin America price was coming in even cheaper at $226 round trip, including taxes. Unusual for the airline to be charging more than a third-party booking site, but it happens (and it may not last). Another strange thing about this sale: The airline is touting it as a "hot summer fare sale" but you have to complete travel by June 11 (last day to buy is April 25). June 11 is still spring, right?

Airtran yesterday launched a sale that lasts through November. As usual, the best fares are out of BWI, where it competes with Southwest. And the best fare overall is from BWI to Burlington, Vt. AirTran starts flying to that city on May 21, and the sale fare, with all taxes is $119 round trip. It'd cost more to drive. Book by May 6.

Now on to the bad news. United has increased its change fee for domestic flights from $100 to $150. And, in order to qualify for the cheaper fares in many markets, the airline is again requiring Saturday-night stays, a requirement that had fallen out of favor in recent years. Just another way to make a buck as jet fuel prices soar. Look for more of these type fees and pricing changes in the coming months.

By Carol Sottili |  April 22, 2008; 2:42 PM ET  | Category:  Carol Sottili , Deals
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I know this came up recently on a chat -- SWA is now booking through October 30th.

Posted by: Southwest | April 22, 2008 4:23 PM

Skybus tried the strategy of offering rock bottom introductory or teaser rates and went out of business within a year. Virgin America has some deep pockets, but even for them it will get expensive to buy customers.

Posted by: Tom | April 22, 2008 5:14 PM

I'm sorry, but $150 to change your flight is pretty ridiculous. I realize that you can buck up the money to buy a refundable ticket, but sometimes things happen and you have to change your ticket - now that will cost you half the price of the ticket itself! Unreal. Will continue to just fly on Continental when I can, even if I have to go thru Houston or Cleveland.

Posted by: Betty | April 22, 2008 5:17 PM

Isn't it amazing how airfare to Burlington goes on sale at the end of ski season and goes off sale at the start of next year's ski season?

Of course, the airlines would probably charge me another $120 to tote my ski gear to/from, so driving is still cheaper for skiing New England.

Come to think of it, even with a $119 round trip fare, you'll still have to ante up around $225 per week for a rental car once you get there.

Posted by: Sasquatch | April 23, 2008 2:45 PM

I wish the airlines would just raise their damn prices for everyone instead of all these stupid fees.

Posted by: h3 | April 24, 2008 11:15 AM

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