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 The Brancatelli File

joe PUSH YOUR WAY
TO AIRLINE DISCOUNTS


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

June 8, 1997 --Want to split for Cancun or California for a last-minute weekend getaway? You'll pay a hefty price for an airline ticket without a 14- or 30-day advance purchase and a Saturday-night stay. Unless, of course, you know about special Internet-only fares that the airlines dangle in front of Web watchers in hopes of filling their planes late in the game.

How do you find these deals? Mostly they find you, using the World Wide Web's push mechanism. All you have to do is access the airline's Web site and enter your E-mail address. Each week you'll be sent a message detailing the special fares. Most of the deals are valid for weekend domestic travel only, though some airlines offer international weekend fares, too. The majority of special fares are available no earlier than Wednesday for departures on the following Friday or Saturday.

But if your schedule is flexible, these Internet specials will save you money. It's a rank generalization, of course, but domestic Internet deals are roughly equivalent to the lowest fares in the market, but without the onerous advance-purchase restrictions.

All the airlines listed below deliver their domestic E-mail Internet specials late on Tuesday or early Wednesday via the push technology:

* American (www.americanair.com)
* Air Canada (www.aircanada.ca)
* Carnival/Pan Am (www.carnivalair.com)
* Continental (www.flycontinental.com)
* TWA (www.twa.com)
* U.S. Airways (www.usairways.com).

Looking for first-class Internet fares? American Airlines offers some. They're a good deal, but, if you are a serious player in the American AAdvantage frequent-flyer plan, you'll do better using your upgrade privileges. You're also better off claiming a standard frequent-flyer award rather than opting for certain Continental Airlines Internet fares that require you to use some of your OnePass frequent-flyer miles. For just a few more miles than what Continental charges for these hybrid last-minute Internet fares, you can fly free.

Airlines without a push service also offer deals on the Internet, but they require you to tap into their Web sites each Wednesday to learn about special fares. They are:

* Alaska/Horizon Airlines (www.alaska-air.com)
* American Trans Air (www.ata.com)
* Canadian International (www.cdair.ca)
* Northwest (www.nwa.com).

Another option is WebFlyer (www.insideflyer.com), the site operated by frequent-flyer-program guru Randy Petersen. Get to the @deals page, enter your departure and arrival cities and the program will find out if any last-minute Web fares are available.

Some airlines also offer Internet fares for international travel. American, in fact, sends out an E-mail message every Monday that is devoted solely to last-minute international deals. The fares are usually extraordinarily good deals, at or below the carriers's 90-day advance purchase fares. The downside, of course, is you must travel on virtually no notice and within a short window of a Thursday or Friday departure and a Monday or Tuesday return. Of course, if you're looking to take a special someone on a spur-of-the-moment getaway, you can't beat these deals.

This column originally appeared in Verge magazine.

Copyright 1993-2005 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.