Airlines Offering a Passel of Passes

Taylor, an authority on the travel industry, lives in Los Angeles.

Special air passes offering travel within a foreign country are available from a number of carriers, and they're worth looking into if you're going to be visiting that country for a couple of weeks or longer. These foreign airlines may fly internationally or only within the borders of the country.

In some cases, you have to buy a ticket to the country on that nation's carrier. But in other instances you can fly there on any airline. Usually, however, the passes have to be bought in the United States.

Other restrictions may also apply. A fairly standard restriction is that you can't visit any city more than once except for connecting flights, even when you have unlimited stopovers. Make sure that you understand all the conditions and restrictions of a pass before you buy it.

Air Inter, the French domestic airline, has an unlimited "France Pass/Statue of Liberty" to 30 cities. Priced at 1,400 francs (less than $200), the pass can be used for seven days of flights within a month. You can fly as often as you want during these seven days, which don't have to be consecutive.

Have to Buy in the U.S.

While you don't have to buy a transatlantic air ticket to buy the pass, you do have to obtain it in the United States (through a travel agent or Air France). You receive a miscellaneous charge order in the United States to exchange for your pass in Paris from Air Inter. Your one-month period to use the pass would begin at that time. The program is good through Dec. 31.

Certain heavily flown peak-hour commuter flights, generally in the early morning and late afternoon, aren't available. This pass also offers other discounts of up to 50% on some car rentals, up to 40% on some hotels, and free admittance to the Bartholdi Museum in Colmar where the Statue of Liberty was designed. Five percent of the price of each pass will be donated to the Statue of Liberty fund.

Iberia has a "Visit Spain" pass for $199 that offers unlimited travel within the country for 60 days. The pass must be bought in the United States, but it's only available if you buy a transatlantic ticket to Madrid on Iberia. For $50 more, or $249, the pass is also good to Majorca in the Balearic Islands, and the Canary Islands.

SAS has a "Visit Scandinavia" pass that involves the purchase of seven flight coupons for $195. You have 30 days in which to use the coupons, starting when you arrive in Scandinavia. You can choose from 43 cities in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. You have to buy the pass in the United States in conjunction with an SAS ticket. The program is good through Dec. 30.

Any Number of Cities

On the South American front, Varig has two types of "Brazil Air Passes." For $330 you can visit an unlimited number of cities within 21 days. In a more limited version, you can visit four cities (not counting the gateways of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo) for $250 during a 14-day period.

These passes have to be bought in the United States, but you can fly to Brazil on any airline.

Aerolineas Argentinas has two versions of its "Visit Argentina" pass. For $290 you get unlimited stopovers for 30 days. A less liberal and less expensive pass permits visits to three cities (not counting the gateway of Buenos Aires) for $199 for 14 days. You have to prepare your itinerary in advance when using this latter pass, and no changes are allowed once you start using it.

This pass also has to be bought in the United States, but you can fly to Argentina on any airline.

In the South Pacific, Trans Australia Airlines has a "Go Australia" air pass based upon distances flown and stopovers, with the fares said to represent a discount of about 45% off economy fares. For example, for about $350 you can fly a maximum of 6,000 kilometers (3,720 miles) with five stopovers; for about $560 you're allowed 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) and eight stopovers.

Charts Show Distances

Travel agents, according to the carrier, have been provided with charts that show the distances between the Australian cities to help you decide which pass to use.

This pass is good for 45 nights in Australia throughout this year. It can be bought in the United States through travel agents, or in Australia. In either case you would have to fly to Australia on a promotional fare to be eligible for the pass. But you can fly to Australia on any carrier.

Garuda Indonesian Airways has a three-category "Visit Indonesia Air Pass." You can visit 33 cities for $500, 10 cities for $400, and five cities for $300. Jakarta, the capital, is included in all three categories. There are maximum-stay restrictions. You have to use the five-city pass in 10 consecutive nights, 10 cities in 20 nights, and you have 60 nights for the 33-city category.

The pass can be bought in the United States from travel agents or Garuda. While the pass can't be bought in Indonesia, you can get it in other markets as long as you fly into or out of Indonesia aboard Garuda. In conjunction with Continental, Garuda flies from LAX to Jakarta.

Other foreign airlines, serving both international and domestic routes, may also have comparable air passes. Check with the carriers, travel agents and foreign government tourist offices to determine what sort of air passes, if any, may be available at the destination you plan to visit.

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