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Ticket Web Sites

April 18, 1999|VANI RANGACHAR | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Want to get out of town next weekend? Last-minute air fare bargains abound on the Internet. And the more flexible you are, the more plentiful the discounts.

Many major airlines try to fill unsold seats by advertising deeply discounted fares in free weekly e-mails and on their Web sites. The e-mails aren't limited to air fares; most include discounts on hotels and car rentals, too. If you live near an airline's hub airport (for LAX, it's United Airlines) and are very flexible on flight schedules and destination, taking advantage of the Web is a great way to fit a long weekend jaunt into your life.

To sign up for the e-mails, visit the airlines' Web sites (see list on this page). And while there, check out "e-fares," specials offered only to Web browsers. Again, some sites, such as American Airlines (http://www.aa.com), will require you to sign up and choose a PIN (personal identification number) in order to access their e-fares. But others, Alaska Airlines (http://www.alaska air.com) and Continental (http://www.continental.com) among them, allow browsing Internet explorers to check into their Web specials without a sign-up.

Be aware that many airline Web sites add a surcharge to tickets bought by phone, so using a secure browser to purchase your ticket will save you money.

If you don't want to clutter up your computer mailbox with weekly missives and don't have the time to wade through a dozen airline Web sites each day, there are sites that do the hard work for you:

SmarterLiving (http://www.smarterliving.com): This site posts "Deal Alerts," and you can subscribe to free e-mails on airfare deals from your departure city.

Best Fares (http://www.bestfares.com): The better deals here seem to be reserved for members, but nonmembers can find some gems too.

LowestFare.com (http://www.lowestfare.com): The site promises 20% off on major airline fares to 85 cities.

Airtech.com (http://www.airtech.com): If you are very, very flexible, this site can deliver ultra-low fares. But it requires a departure window of up to four days, and you may need to hang loose about your arrival city too.

Consolidators and air fare discounters also are moving seats on the Web. A sampling:

1Travel.com (http://www.1travel.com): 1Travel.com gets its prices through consolidators. It doesn't require a sign-up to search its flight database.

Cheap Tickets (http://www.cheaptickets.com): This airline discounter's site requires credit card information and a user profile before you can search its database of discount fares.

Travel Bargains (http://www.1800airfare.com): A consolidator that once sold only TWA tickets but now handles other airlines too.

Council Travel (http://www.counciltravel.com): Originally for students, this consolidator now offers low-cost fares on scheduled airlines to anyone.

New Frontiers USA (http://www.newfrontiers.com) The U.S. arm of a French company, it mainly offers discounted fares to Europe.

STA Travel (http://www.sta-travel.com). Its lowest fares are reserved for students, but it offers other travel services as well.

The FareBusters (http://www.thefarebusters.com). A Phoenix-based air fare discounter.

Four online travel agents--Internet Travel Network (http://www.itn.net), Travelocity (http://www.travelocity.com), PreviewTravel (http://www.previewtravel.com) and Expedia (http://expedia.com)--track low fares from the departure city of your choice. They'll also send e-mail alerts for routes you choose.

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