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Getting around by air

When time is tight, book a flight. The domestic air system is extensive and reliable, with dozens of competing airlines, hundreds of airports and thousands of flights daily. Flying is usually more expensive than traveling by bus, train or car, but it's the way to go when you're in a hurry.

Main 'hub' airports in the USA include all international gateways plus many other large cities. Most cities and towns have a local or county airport, but you usually have to travel via a hub airport to reach them.

Airlines in USA

Overall, air travel in the USA is very safe (much safer than driving out on the nation's highways); for comprehensive details by carrier, check out airsafe.com.

The main domestic carriers:

Alaska Airlines (www.alaskaair.com) Has direct flights to Anchorage from Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles and Denver. It also flies between many towns within Alaska, including daily northbound and southbound flights year-round through southeast Alaska, with stops at all main towns, including Ketchikan and Juneau.

American Airlines (www.aa.com) Nationwide service.

Delta Air Lines (www.delta.com) Nationwide service.

Frontier Airlines (www.flyfrontier.com) Denver-based airline with service across the continental USA.

Hawaiian Airlines (www.hawaiianairlines.com) Nonstop flights between the Hawaiian islands and various spots on the mainland.

JetBlue Airways (www.jetblue.com) New York City–based airline serving many East Coast cities, plus other destinations across the USA.

Southwest Airlines (www.southwest.com) Dallas-based budget airline with service across the continental USA.

Spirit Airlines (www.spirit.com) Florida-based budget airline; serves many US gateway cities.

United Airlines (www.united.com) Nationwide service.

Virgin America (www.virginamerica.com) California-based airline serving over two dozen cities, from Honolulu to Boston.

Air Passes

International travelers who plan on doing a lot of flying might consider buying a North American air pass. Passes are normally available only to non–North American citizens, and they must be purchased in conjunction with an international ticket. Conditions and cost structures can be complicated, but all passes include a certain number of domestic flights (from as few as two to as many as 16, depending on airline network) that typically must be used within a 60-day period. Often you must plan your itinerary in advance, but sometimes dates (and even destinations) can be left open. Talk with a travel agent to determine if an air pass will save you money. Networks offering air passes include Star Alliance (www.staralliance.com), One World (www.oneworld.com) and Skyteam (www.skyteam.com).