Travelers searching for deals on airfares this fall might consider an unusual alternative: bidding for them online.
With the slumping economy and high fuel costs grounding passengers, JetBlue Airways Corp. on Monday began auctioning off more than 300 round-trip tickets on EBay, the popular online bidding site.
Opening bids for the weekend-only flights this month and in October started at a nickel.
Individuals have long auctioned off unused airline tickets on EBay, and airlines have sold tickets on EBay for charity or for unique events such as the first flight of Singapore Airlines' A380 super jumbo jet.
But New York-based JetBlue said the auction was the largest of its kind for an airline, and if successful, could portend the use of the auction site as another way for the low-fare carrier to sell seats on less-than-crowded planes.
"We're always looking for new outlets for passengers to purchase JetBlue flights," said Alison Eshelman, the airline's spokeswoman. "If they say they find value in it, we would consider doing it again."
The flights leave Thursday or Friday and return Sunday or Monday. Fewer passengers fly in the fall, particularly on weekends, than during most other times of the year.
Of the 300 tickets being auctioned, 27 were for flights departing from Long Beach and Ontario airports with arrivals in Las Vegas; Washington, D.C.'s Dulles International Airport; Seattle; and Salt Lake City.
Other departure cities include Boston; Chicago; New York; Orlando, Fla.; Salt Lake City; and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
In addition to the flights, JetBlue also began taking bids for six vacation packages, two of which include airfare for two people and four-night hotel stays in Las Vegas or Nassau, Bahamas. The four remaining packages are "mystery getaways" that include airfare for two and a four-night stay at a four-star Marriott property at an undisclosed location.
By midday Monday, some flights and vacation packages had more than 60 bids, with the highest being $3,350 for a mystery vacation package for two.