The weather outside is frightful, and the economy is downright scary. Still, for those who have the desire and the means to travel, 2009 is beginning with a tremendous number of deals. Unlike mid-winter sales of past years, some discounts run deep into the Brave New Year.

Some of the best dollars-off deals are available in the sky, as traditional off-season softness in demand joins the economic downturn to drive down fares. The International Air Transport Association, the trade organization of the world's major airlines, predicts that global passenger travel will dip 3% this year. IATA's numbers-crunchers and soothsayers say passenger numbers won't return to normal until 2011. That has the airlines scrambling for revenue.

Many airfare sales have short cut-off dates, though, so consumers have got to move fast.

American Airlines ( AMR) just hatched a sale, running only through Friday, that offers some major discounts. Economy-class tickets booked on American's Web site -- and tickets must be booked there -- include $74 one-way between Miami and New York, $114 one-way between Chicago O'Hare and Washington D.C., and $186 between Boston and London Heathrow airport. On domestic routes, flyers must begin travel between Jan. 26 to March 1 and finish by March 4. For international trips, travel dates vary.

As with all airfare sales, taxes and surcharges aren't included, so the fares aren't as good as they look, but they're good. Please note that most airline sales don't affect the fees for checked bags, extra legroom and so on that many airlines introduced in 2008. They are tacked on to the cost of flying.

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