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Latin America

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Cancun, Mexico (Photo: Adalberto Rios Szalay/Sexto Sol)

Cancun has long been a popular destination for airlines seeking to expand into the Latin American market, but these days, low-cost carriers are adding service to destinations beyond the resort town. JetBlue, Spirit, Frontier, Alaska, Sun Country, and USA3000 offer routes to both popular and off-the-beaten-path destinations in Mexico, such as Cozumel, Los Cabos, and Puerto Vallarta. And don't be afraid to look at non-U.S. carriers. VivaAerobus and Volaris, for example, are based in Mexico, but fly to U.S. destinations and offer a wider network within our southern neighbor. Volaris serves Los Angeles and Oakland, while vivaAerobus serves Las Vegas. Direct flights to Hermosillo (new in 2010), Guadalajara, and Monterrey in Mexico are just a few of the destinations offered by these carriers.

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Other Latin American destinations are also gaining popularity among low-cost carriers. Spirit has been expanding into Colombia over the past few years, and now serves Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin, and Armenia. In Armenia's case, this is the first time that any international carrier has provided service to the city, which is located within Colombia's coffee triangle and is famous for its adventure and eco-tourism opportunities. Other Latin American destinations with direct service on Spirit include San Jose, Costa Rica; Lima, Peru; Managua, Nicaragua; and Guatemala City, Guatemala.

I compared costs between legacy airlines and low-cost carriers on various routes:

Route Airline Stops Price
Atlanta-Cancun AirTran 0 $295
Atlanta-Cancun Delta 0 $295
Fort Lauderdale-Bogota Spirit 0 $259
Fort Lauderdale-Bogota Delta 0 $435
Las Vegas-Hermosillo vivaAerobus 0 $152
Las Vegas-Hermosillo US Airways 1 $644

Fares were found on the respective airlines' websites and include taxes and fees. Atlanta to Cancun fares based on travel from May 4 through 11. Fort Lauderdale to Bogota fares based on travel from June 1 through 8. Las Vegas to Hermosillo fares based on travel from June 3 through 10.

Once again, the low-cost airlines had lower prices on two of the routes I checked, and would save travelers nearly $500 in one case.

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