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ON A BUDGET

Flying to Europe for Less This Summer

April 11, 1999|ARTHUR FROMMER

This summer a reinvigorated air charter industry will help keep transatlantic air service to key locations in Europe affordable and more reliable.

Both the charter tour companies and the airlines operating the flights will apparently do so without experiencing the same degree of difficulties--flight delays, hassles and insolvencies--that have occurred in the past. Today's charter firms are rather substantial--sometimes owned by major airlines or even governments--and they operate under strict regulation.

For those heading to northern Europe, consider Martinair, telephone (800) 627-8462 or (561) 391-1313, which will fly to Amsterdam from Los Angeles for $898 round trip (plus tax) on weekdays and $958 (plus tax) on weekends in peak summer months. LTU Airlines, tel. (800) 888-0200, will fly to Dusseldorf from Los Angeles for $998 (plus tax) round trip in the summer.

One of the key expansion destinations for charter activity in the U.S. is France. But California travelers have already (and for a long while) rejoiced in their ability to fly for less to France on the charter flights of Corsair, at a summer price of $748 round trip (plus tax) from Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Corsair is owned by the largest travel company in France, Nouvelles Frontieres, and you can book flights by phoning its U.S. subsidiary, New Frontiers, at (800) 677-0720 for West Coast departures.

For adventurers willing to accept less reliable arrangements, there's a non-charter alternative to Europe that can lower the cost even more.

There are standby deals available from two rival providers of flexible flights: AirHitch and AirTech. At the very height of the summer season, either of the two companies will send you to many of the major cities in Europe provided you let it choose the date of your departure (within a four- or five-day "window" stipulated by you) and your arrival city.

AirHitch, tel. (800) 326-2009 or (888) 247-4482, offers round-trip flights from Los Angeles to Paris, (and come summer, probably from L.A. to Dusseldorf or Amsterdam) for $530 round trip, including tax.

Its fierce competitor, AirTech, tel. (800) 575-8324, Internet http://www.airtech.com, offers summer trips to Brussels or Paris from L.A. for about $478 round trip (including tax), with more European destinations likely in the summer.

Both organizations claim that they will succeed in finding a flight on your preferred date and to your preferred city in the overwhelming majority of cases.

Are you game?

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