When wishes have wings

The sky's the only limit in flying holidays. The choice of craft, destination or price is extensive, says Jill Crawshaw
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The Independent Culture
THE BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF AUSTRALIA

A seven-day air cruise from Quest Worldwide visits some of the most inaccessible and remote areas of central and eastern Australia in some style - the aircraft, ranging from a nine-seater Titan to the 40-seat Fokker Friendship, have been specially adapted to offer uninterrupted sightseeing. The plane touches down in the "Red Centre", exploring Ayers Rock and Alice Springs, stopping at a remote outback cattle station. Other highlights include a day on the Barrier Reef, and a trip to the village of Kuranda to see the Aboriginal Dance Theatre,

The price (with two sharing) is pounds 2,349 each, which covers all internal travel and transfers, six nights accommodation in first-class hotels, a cruise on the Outer Barrier Reef; and a trip on the Kuranda railway, sightseeing and all meals, with emphasis on local specilities, but not flights between the UK and Australia.

Quest Worldwide 0181-547 3322

BARGAINS IN AIR PASSES

ALTHOUGH the "standby" air-pass schemes have been abolished this year, most trans-atlantic airlines still offer "Air Passes" which entitle you to fly to nominated destinations on their network at bargain prices.

With American Airlines, for example, if you use their flights from and back to the UK, you can also buy a fixed number of "coupons" or Air Passes, minimum three, maximum 10, and nominate the cities within their American, Canadian, Mexican and Caribbean network that you will want to fly to, pre-booking the first such flight. Other legs must be booked at least 24 hours prior to each flight. Three "coupons" cost pounds 279, four pounds 339, five pounds 419, They are valid for 60 days from the date of your first internal flight, and are not refundable unless you cancel your whole trip, in which case you'll lose pounds 50. The cost of all the Air Passes is calculated in US dollars, so the pound sterling price can vary.

Delta Airline's "Discover America" pass (which includes Canada) costs pounds 279 for three, pounds 349 for four and pounds 419 for five.

Quantas Australian Airlines have a similar pre-paid scheme, with each leg of journeys within Australia costing either pounds 80 or pounds 105.

Iberia Spanish Airlines offer "Mercosur" passes valid in Brazil, Urugay, Paraguay and Argentina, in co-operation with those countries' national airlines. In this case, having flown with Iberia to Latin America, you buy "distances" within those countries: 1,900 miles for pounds 143, 2,500 miles for pounds 181, right up to 7,000 miles - a real bargain at pounds 267.

American Airlines 0345 789789; Delta Airline 0800 414767; Quantas Australian Airlines 0345 747767; Iberia Spanish Airlines 0171 830 0022

CHEAP CHARTERS

Package-holiday companies with charter airlines, as well as student travel organisations, are useful sources of low-cost flights during the peak- season holiday months,

Thomson Holidays have a special air-fares brochure with a wide range of flight-only deals; you can, for instance, fly to Faro in Portugal from Gatwick in July and August for pounds 140-pounds 156 return, to Malta for pounds 185-pounds 219 or to Tunisia for pounds 145-pounds I88. Some places are heavily booked, notably Turkey, the Canary Islands and the Balearics, but there is still room on flights to smaller Greek islands, including Samos pounds 279-pounds 285, Santorini pounds 280-pounds 290 or Skiathos pounds 233-pounds 275. Away from the beaches, flights to the attractive little city of Salzburg cost pounds 184-pounds 205. Flights to the Dominican Republic, now the No 1 Caribbean holiday island, cost pounds 418-pounds 473.

Campus Travel have their own charters, largely to Mediterranean destinations in summer, with one-way fares also available. A Man-chester to Athens trip open to students and non-students alike would cost pounds 215-pounds 249 return and to Corfu pounds 205-pounds 229, with reductions for students or those under 26. A return charter flight to Prague, from Gatwick costs pounds 189-pounds 199.

STA Travel's flights are mainly to European cities or longhaul destinations; during August and September you can get to Paris and back for pounds 59, Amsterdam for pounds 71, Madrid for pounds 99, Nice for pounds 142, New York for pounds 299, Hong Kong for pounds 479, Perth for pounds 602 and Brisbane for pounds 715.

Thomson Holidays 0171-707 9000; Campus Travel, for European flights 0171 730 3402; STA Travel, for European flights 0171-937 9921, for other destinations worldwide 0171-937 9962

PILOT YOUR OWN FLYING MACHINE

Holidaymakers can try out a wide variety of air activities on courses run by Acorn Activities in Herefordshire. Flying lessons in a Cessna 152 cost pounds 40 for a trial flight, pounds 300 for a one-day course, pounds 600 for two days. Microlighting in the small flying machine with no cockpit is slightly cheaper - the introductory one-day course costs pounds 200, with two- and five- day intensive courses at pounds 450 and pounds 850 respectively. Gliding is also available at pounds 60 for a trial flight, pounds 130 for a day course and pounds 400 for five days. Other activities include balloon flights at pounds 125, helicopter flights at pounds 130 and parachute jumps at pounds 120.

A special Air Experience Weekend offers "tasters" in a Cessna 152, a hot-air balloon flight, glider and microlight at pounds 275 for the four. Acorn arrange accommodation (at extra cost), ranging from b&b in a farmhouse at pounds 20 a night to pounds 30 in a hotel.

Acorn Activities 01432 830083

GOING SUPERSONIC

Goodwood Travel offers Concorde enthusiasts a variety sub- and supersonic flights in their "Flights of Fantasy 195" programme. At the International Air Tattoo for the 50th anniversary of victory in Europe, to be held at RAF Fairford on 22 and 23 July, subsonic flights cost pounds 199, and supersonic pounds 499, including admission to the Tattoo. Supersonic flights (lasting 1 hour 40 minutes), with champagne lunch on board, cost between pounds 515 and pounds 545; Paris weekends from pounds 549 and a full-blown supersonic Arabian Nights' six-day tour to Petra, with barbecues by the Dead Sea, a ride in Lawrence's steam-hauled train and a visit to Amman, costs pounds 2,195.

For real addicts, there's also a "Concorde Simulator" day (pounds 675) at the British Aerospace Centre at Filton, near Bristol, where participants meet pilots and spend two hours on the simulator flight deck, some of it in the captain's seat, though they don't take off in the real thing.

Goodwood Travel 01227 763336

WINGS AND WHEELS

Sunvil Holidays offer some unusual fly-drive destinations, among them Costa Rica, Namibia and Sicily. A Sicilian tour includes the Greek and Roman ruins of Syracuse, Agrigento and Selinunte, the medieval mountain eyrie of Erice, Cefalu, famous for its Byzantine mosaics and Norman cathedral, and Taormina. There are week-long and 14-night tours, choosing your overnight stays from a selection of accommodation. Roads in Sicily are extremely good, apart from regular jams on the outskirts of Palermo and Catania. A week-long trip with flights and car only costs pounds 339-437, with accommodation pounds 539. A 14-day historical tour, with 7 locations, is pounds 834-pounds 848 with accommodation.

Sunvil Holidays 0181 568 4499

ROUND THE WORLD IN ONE TICKET

The best present for post-exam students - or anyone else with travel fever - must be a round-the-world ticket, one of the top bargains in the travel business. There are two types of tickets: made to your specific wishes, or designated routings put together by specialist agencies.

Some current examples, from STA Travel: London, New York, surface to Los Angeles, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Colombo, surface to Delhi, London, depart 16 Sept-10 Dec and valid for 12 months, from pounds 664; London, New York, Mexico City, surface to Los Angeles, Raratonga, Auckland, Cairns, Singapore, Bangkok, Delhi, London, depart Sept- Nov and valid 12 months, from pounds 987.

With Campus Travel: departing July to Sept, London, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Sydney, Auck-land, Los Angeles, New York, London, from pounds 976; departing Aug to Sept, back by October 1996; London, Delhi, Bangkok, Sydney, Auckland, Los Angeles, New York, London, from pounds 999; departing between Nov and mid Dec, London, Hong Kong, Denpasar, Melbourne, Auckland, Honolulu, Los Angeles, surface to New York, London, from pounds 681.

From Austravel, London, Amsterdam, Singapore, Sydney, New Orleans, London, pounds 958; London, Amsterdam, Singapore, Sydney, Auckland, Tahiti, Los Angeles, London, pounds 987.

These companies have worldwide representation and can give information on visas, accommodation, and insurance and health.

STA 0171-937 9962; Campus Travel, worldwide 0171-730 8111; Austravel 0171-734 7755 !

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