DEPARTURES

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The Independent Travel
It's a gift

May is turning out to be the month of the free gift, to tempt travellers on board aircraft. From today, STA Travel is offering a free food-and- drink "goody-bag" to anyone calling in at one of its 24 offices in Britain. No purchase is necessary to qualify for the gift, comprising a can of Irn Bru, Polo mints, Doritos (corn chips) and Oriental Noodles (instant snack). You can also enter a competition to win a free flight for two to Amsterdam or Paris. And if you actually buy a ticket with STA before the end of May, the company will give you a pack of three condoms.

The spirit of generosity has spread to Travel Warehouse (0171-414 8808), which is giving a Lottery scratch card to everyone booking a Qantas flight before the end of July.

Maiden flights

Virgin Atlantic's delayed code-share arrangement with Malaysia Airlines has now been given the go-ahead. From Monday, Richard Branson's airline has a share of the seats on a twice-daily 747 flight from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur - and onwards to Sydney, Adelaide or Melbourne. Virgin Atlantic passengers will check in the Malaysia Airlines desks in Terminal 3, but Virgin Atlantic cabin crew will be on board. One advantage of the new arrangement is that Virgin has a fixed allocation of seats on the flights - so if Malaysia Airlines is full, there may still be availability on the code-share carrier, or vice- versa.

For departures from now until 15 June, Bridge the World (0171-911 0900) has a fare of pounds 727 return to Sydney or Melbourne on either airline. This agency is also selling a cheap round-the-world trip using Air New Zealand from Heathrow to Sydney via Los Angeles, and return on Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong. Travel must commence by 15 June and be completed by 15 July. The price is pounds 685 including tax.

Paris moins cher

Air Miles collectors who can travel to Paris and back before the end of June need "spend" only 350 awards compared with the normal requirement of 450. Related to the airline's lowest fare of pounds 77 return, this offer values each Air Mile at 22p each - possibly the highest rate since the scheme began. Taxes totalling pounds 7.60 are payable. In conjunction with the offer, the company is offering special rates at one of four hotels in the French capital for pounds 69 single or pounds 38 per person sharing a twin room.

If you have only 100 Air Miles, you can still redeem them for a range of benefits: admission to some leading theme parks, or coach tickets on National Express. Call 01293 515700 to redeem awards, or 0171-385 4007 to enrol in the Air Miles scheme.

Members of the Air France frequent flyer scheme, Frequence Plus (application forms: 0181-742 6600), get a free Sony Discman or pair of Nikon binoculars by flying in the carrier's new Espace class between the UK and France before 15 June. The lowest fare to qualify is a London-Paris return of pounds 257.70.

Late availability

Portland Holidays (0171-388 5111): 23 May, Gatwick-Palma, 14 nights half-board, pounds 195.

Lunn Poly (01203 225888): 23 May, Luton-Antalya, seven nights B&B, pounds 149; 23 May, Manchester-Reus, seven nights self-catering, pounds 129; 23 May, Birmingham- Zakinthos, seven nights self-catering, pounds 159; 24 May, Luton-Ibiza, seven night B&B, pounds 189; 27 May, Gatwick-Rhodes, 14 nights room-only, pounds 165.

The Flight Company (0181-977 9455): 26 May, Manchester-Dalaman, pounds 189; 29 May, Gatwick-Las Palmas, pounds 199; both flight-only.

Premier Holidays (01223 516000): 27 May, seven nights half-board in Guernsey, including flight from Gatwick (pounds 229), Stansted (pounds 255), Birmingham (pounds 259) or Manchester (pounds 259).

Connections (0171-409 0009): 28 May or 11 June, Gatwick-Orlando, 14 nights fly-drive, pounds 367 per person including taxes and CDW insurance; until 19 June, Gatwick-Johannesburg, 14 nights flight-only, pounds 320.

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