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Bargain of the week: dreaming of California

Bargain of the week: dreaming of California

Go west before July – fares for non-stop flights to California are excellent value between now and the end of June, but will soar in July and August. To San Francisco, Virgin Atlantic and United Airlines have an identical fare of £372 – Virgin's is available for departures from now until 20 June, United's for the whole of June. You must book by the end of May for either airline.

On United, you can extend your trip from San Francisco to San Diego for only £4 more – though you can't stop over in San Francisco on this fare. United's non-stop fare to Los Angeles is £367.

From outside the London area, the current Aer Lingus deal via Dublin may appeal – £388 for departures from a wide range of cities, including Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. A Dublin stopover will cost you an extra £50.

Fares like these are available through a range of discount agents; the quotes mentioned here are from Trailfinders (020-7973 5400, www.trailfinders.co.uk).

Warning of the week: steer clear of Motown if you are short of time

Northwest Airlines offers some of the lowest fares for transatlantic lights via its hub in Detroit. But it has been a winter of discontent for many passengers. The Department of Transportation's new Air Travel Consumer Report rates the 10 biggest US airlines for everything from missing bags to overbooking.

Northwest is also bottom of the list of delayed flights nationwide, with three out of 10 arrivals late (not counting the one in 50 flights that was cancelled altogether). The best performer is Continental, with 85 per cent of its flights turning up on time.

Detroit airport is the departure point for the three most-delayed flights in America, according to the report. In March, three of Northwest's flights – to Philadelphia, Memphis and Minneapolis – were on time only once, twice and three times respectively.

Among non-US airlines, Air France is the most complained-about carrier, precipitating nearly twice as many grumbles as British Airways – even though BA has many more flights to America.

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