Tiny Pretty Virgin Pummels Big Ugly American

Yes, we've gone totally tabloid to bring you the latest news, not from the wily world of mud-wrestling (although don't rule out some good old-fashioned mud-slinging just yet), but straight from the front of the never-ending airfare wars.

At the stroke of midnight, the first shot was fired in a week-long battle of wings when Virgin Atlantic Airways launched the latest London sale (they are coming at us like a transatlantic tailwind these days, as fast and furious as we can tell you about them, so bear with us through all this repetition).

American Airlines immediately took the gloves off and started duking it out in what looks to be a knock-down, drag-out dogfight to the end (of the runway). British Airways is keeping a stiff upper lip and a suitably decorous distance of at least $20 whereas everyone else seem to be staying on the sidelines in stunned silence for now.

The favorite to win so far is Virgin Atlantic, simply by virtue of having more non-stop flights from more cities than American—and by sheer moxie! From New York and Boston, fares start at $520 including taxes for travel through October 24, whence they drop to $450, as they say in Upper Class. A truce is scheduled for September 12, but will no doubt quickly be followed by a rematch of some sort.

Sample non-stop fares with taxes to London Heathrow from:

Early Fall    Late Fall
New York $517
Boston $517 $447
Washington $538 $463
Chicago $547 $472
Miami   $597   $597
Los Angeles   $623   $623
San Francisco $623 $623