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piggy bank airline ticketsI’ve just booked the kind of deal that makes me feel like I’m a great explorer.

I’m Marco Polo stumbling onto an overland trade route to China or Magellan finding his way around Cape Horn. In my mind, I have discovered something truly sensational — dare I say something that could even change the way that people look at the world … of great deals on airfare.

I’ve booked a deal for a roundtrip transatlantic flight for more than $1,400 less than the normal ticket price by adding on a rental car.

Normally, if you’re booking a trip for a week or so, you only get a cheap fare if you stay over at least one Saturday. Book a Monday – Friday flight, as many business travelers do, and the airlines gouge you. However, if you fly British Airways and book a package deal through its Web site (flight + rental car, hotel, etc.), you are granted access to the super-secret cheapo rates.

Evidence my booking. I was looking for a flight from London to either Philadelphia or New York, and after a few hours of searching, the lowest fare I found was £1,497 (a little over $2,300) on the British Airways Web site. But when I clicked on the “flight + car” package option, the total price dropped to £555 (about $880).

Tips for Finding Cheap Airfare

Unable to believe my eyes, I called one of BA’s agents, who confirmed that, indeed, you can get this kind of deal routinely by booking a package. “When we’re selling holidays, we’re a tour operator and we have preferential rates, which we’re able to pass … on to the consumer,” said Tracy Long of British Airways Holidays. “If you’re booking anything more than just a flight, you’re able to take advantage of deeper discounts.”

In my case, booking a package may also have dropped me into the leisure travel category, which usually offers cheaper rates than those for business travelers.

So enjoy your discounted flight and rental car or hotel stay courtesy of IndependentTraveler.com, and when you brag about the deal to your friends, be sure to claim the discovery for yourself.

See Our Latest Airfare Deals

– written by Jamey Bergman

airlines behaving badlyThis post is the first in a new series called “Airlines Behaving Badly,” which will chronicle the oft-wicked ways of the air travel industry.

“This is an emergency announcement. We may shortly need to make an emergency landing on water.”

Not what you want to hear at 3 in the morning, cruising about 35,000 feet above the North Sea. But that is exactly what happened to some 275 passengers aboard a British Airways flight from Miami to London Heathrow on Friday night, according to Britain’s Daily Telegraph.

As expected, the passengers — many of whom were awakened by the calm female voice on the automated announcement — panicked. Fortunately, they didn’t have much time to work up a frenzy as the cabin crew quickly canceled the alert.

Oops. A flight attendant reportedly announced on the public address system about 30 seconds later that the message was played by mistake.

Readers’ Worst Airplane Horror Stories

In August 2010, that same terrifying message was accidently played aboard a British Airways flight from London to Hong Kong. If it’s that easy to release the beast, perhaps it’s time to jettison it.

Should the need arise for such a message, just let the flight attendant scream into the mike: “We’re going to die! We’re going to die!”

The response would likely be the same. Well, not exactly the same, but passenger reaction might well be just as terrified.

The plane landed without incident on Saturday, and British Airways issued an immediate apology to the passengers, although some complained that the airline had trivialized their fear.

The Daily Telegraph reported that a passenger said he couldn’t think of anything worse than being told your plane’s about to crash. Hmm, can you?

– written by Jodi Thompson