WORLD DEPARTURES

Seats on flights across the Atlantic are becoming extremely scarce as the school holidays in Britain get under way. The traditional low-cost airlines - Air India, Kuwait Airways and Icelandair - have few seats available until September. The bigger carriers do have some spare capacity, but discounted fares are rare. "It seems to be because of a cut in capacity on transatlantic routes", says Trevor Worth of Quest Worldwide (0181-546 6000). "Airlines are switching larger 747s to the more profitable Pacific routes, and the relatively small Boeing 767 has become the standard equipment on the route. So with the supply cut, prices are bound to go up. It's a case of grabbing any seat you can, and the sooner the better - leaving it later is only going to make things even more expensive."

One way to get there could be via the Latin route. At last a good-value discount ticket covering North, Central and South America is available. Three Hispanic airlines have teamed up to offer a range of possibilities across the Americas from Toronto in Canada to Rio Gallegos in southern Patagonia. You can choose from the schedules of Iberia of Spain, Viasa of Venezuela and Aerolineas Argentinas on any of their routes to and within the Americas. Numerous agents are selling these deals: Journey Latin America (0181-747 3108) is offering London or Manchester to Miami, Caracas and Lima for pounds 770, while STA Travel (0171-937 9962) prices a five-country itinerary, from New York to Caracas, at pounds 764.

Damascus and Beirut are now served by several airlines direct from Heathrow. A relatively unrestricted fare is available on British Mediterranean (0345 320100), which charges pounds 320 return (including tax) to the Syrian or the Lebanese capital.

The new edition of the Traveller magazine includes details of how to dodge the Darien Gap: catch the thrice-weekly ferry between Cartagena in Colombia and Colon in Panama. The magazine is available only to members of Wexas (0171-589 0500).

Manchester airport has lost several long-haul operators over the past year, with Qantas and South African Airways pulling out, but gets one back from this week when Continental Airlines begins services to Newark, serving New York City and offering connections across the United States. Continental is a leading discounter to North and Central America, and the new service opens a range of possibilities from northern England.

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