THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Cheap flights this fall

The cost of an airline ticket has dropped dramatically but don't delay, prices won't remain this low for long.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

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For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- We haven't seen airfare prices this low for a decade. But will the deals stick around? Here's your guide to getting the cheapest ticket in town.

1. Great fall deals

Discount airlines have rolled out some of the lowest fares this week for travel in the fall, including Southwest (LUV, Fortune 500), AirTran (AAI) and Frontier (FRNTQ).

What's going on?

Airlines are gearing up for what's usually a slower fall travel season. And when one airline cuts its prices, the rest follow suit. Some of the best deals will be to places like Florida and Mexico -- these areas are discounted because of jitters about the Hurricane season and remnants of the Swine Flu panic.

Travel to major cities will also be a bargain this fall according to Farecompare.com. International cities remain at low prices. Recently there was a deal from New York to Rio for $300 roundtrip. Last year, that ticket would have been over a thousand dollars says Rick Seany of Farecompare.com.

You may even find another round of summer-fare cutting says George Hobica of Airfarewatchdog.com. The only way the airlines can compete for travelers is to lower fares.

2. Get the edge

It's really all about the technology. Major airlines like JetBlue (JBLU) and Delta (DAL, Fortune 500) are now tweeting about special deals -- some of which may only be found on Twitter. These deals are typically for short-term travel. JetBlue -- which will be tweeting deals every Monday -- says that these are seats that otherwise would not have been filled. And the prices are jaw-dropping. $9 one way to Nantucket from New York is just one example.

Farecompare.com, an online travel site, also just launched on Twitter. You can get you can get real-time tweets on your cell phone or BlackBerry with deals from a specified airport.

If Twitter isn't your style, you can also sign up at travel sites like Airfarewatchdog or Travelzoo.com to get alerts sent to your e-mail.

3. Avoid paying fees

For the last couple of years, air travelers have been hit with a multitude of fees, from checked bags to paper tickets and blankets. Experts we talk to say these fees are here to stay. It can add up to over a billion dollars in profit for an airline says Seany.

There are things you can do to avoid these extra gotchas. First, do everything you can online. Don't bother getting a paper ticket; don't book flights over the phone and pay for your checked bags online. US Airways, for example, will charge you an additional $5 service fee if you pay for your checked bags at the airport. Don't request seat preferences when you book your flight. That could cost you extra. Instead, if you want to sit next to your friend on the flight, ask to switch seats once you're on the plane.

Now what could be the wave of the future? Standing only flights. It's being considered in Europe. We'll keep you posted on developments.

-- CNN's Jen Haley contributed to this article.

Got a financial dilemma? Go to CNNMoney.com/helpdesk to submit questions, read the Help Desk articles and check out new Help Desk videos. And tune in to CNN's Newsroom Tuesdays and Fridays, when Gerri Willis and other experts answer your questions. To top of page

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