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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bargains Abound After Airlines Slash Fall Fares

With the peak summer season over, airlines are scrambling to fill seats by marking down fares for fall travel by as much as $200 to major cities in Europe and the United States.

Scandinavian Airlines System and Austrian Airlines are cutting fares to Brussels, Geneva and Zurich from about $500 to $350. SAS, Austrian Airlines and Lufthansa are offering fares of $333 to seven European cities from Oct. 15 to Dec. 16. And Swissair and Sabena are slashing fares of $519 to $649 to five destinations in Spain — including Barcelona and Madrid — to a flat $288.

"This is the lowest fare we have had," said Swissair agent Salbina Delukina.

The tightest competition is on transatlantic flights, with British Airways and Air France dueling for passengers by offering round-trip fares for under $500 to cities including Miami, New York and Boston through mid-December. Fares to East Coast destinations usually run over $600 round-trip.

Ticket prices tend to fall after the busy summer months because airlines often have trouble filling seats after families settle down at home and children go back to school. But there seem to be more bargains this year. "There are a wider group of airlines offering [discounts] this year," said Paul Duffy, an independent aviation analyst. "The reason they’re doing it is to fill the seats they know won’t otherwise be sold."

Special group rates are also springing up. SAS has deals allowing groups of two or more people to travel to 18 European cities for $260 to $330 per passenger, said SAS agent Alevtina Zinovieva.

KLM is courting couples with a $750-for-two deal to any European destination until Oct 31.

However, not every airline is jumping on the cheap-seat wagon while the autumn leaves are still clinging on the trees.

"Who said summer’s over? We will continue with our summer prices through October," said British Airways agent Natasha Sivilyova.

Fares will then dip by about $100 from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, she said.

With tight deadlines on special fares, a would-be traveler might think he has to snap up a ticket right away.

Not so, say travel agents.

"One promotion stops and another comes," said Roman Averkin, manager of Centra travel agency. "When one airline starts offering promotions to European cities, other carriers follow suit."