FARE GAME

How Low Can They Go?

CoGo was startled to discover that, lately, it's almost cheaper to travel than to stay home. What's up with some of those crazy airfares we've been seeing?

The discount carriers, who are fighting both the majors and one another for market share, started the sale ball rolling, and US Airways, United and other carriers responded. For example, BWI to Grand Bahama Island went as low as $98 round trip (plus $37 in taxes) on AirTran during a mid-August sale. Spirit had a $156 round-trip fare from Reagan National to San Juan, Puerto Rico. US Airways went a step further, offering across-the-board discounts to islands throughout the Caribbean.

Discounters also offered coast-to-coast deals for as low as $89 each way -- JetBlue, for example, still has fares of under $200 (including taxes) to Sacramento and Oakland,Calif. Now Florida and closer-to-home sales are heating up. Fort Lauderdale is a top deal: Fly round trip on Ted, United's discount carrier, for $117 including taxes (sale ends Aug. 31). Independence Air's systemwide sale, good through Aug. 30, has knocked fares almost cheaper than driving. For example, it has a base fare of $29 each way to Pittsburgh.

As for Europe, several airlines have dipped their toes into fall fare sales -- Aer Lingus's round-trip fare to Shannon or Dublin in Ireland is $351 -- but few have gone rock-bottom. Yet.

CoGo's advice: Keep abreast of sales by signing up for e-mail alerts at airline Web sites, independent sites such as Travelzoo.com and all-purpose sites like Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz. And be ready to buy: Many sales last for only a day or two.

CALL SECURITY

The Waiting Game

The Transportation Security Administration is now reporting average and maximum wait times at security checkpoints at concourses across America.

The data -- available at http://waittime.tsa.dhs.gov -- can't tell you when to leave home, because it offers no clue about traffic and such. Still, it's a handy piece of info.

At the site, pick an airport, a day of the week and a flight time, and the site will report relevant average wait times. It also shows the maximum wait. Beware: That's not a guarantee, just a historical record of the past month. Security agents test wait times by giving time-stamped cards to people at the end of a line, then record when the card holders arrive at the front.

Wait times at Reagan National and BWI vary dramatically by concourse. For example, the average and maximum wait at National's Concourse A on Mondays at 7 a.m. is three minutes. At Concourse B, it's 16 to 25 minutes.

If you don't know what concourse your airline flies from, check terminal maps. For BWI go to www.bwiairport.com. For National and Dulles, go to www.mwaa.com. But for National you'll need a translation cheat sheet: TSA's "Center Pier" is "Gates 23-34" on airport maps; TSA's "South Pier" is "Gates 10-22"; and TSA's "North Pier" is "Gates 35-45."

MUSEUM WATCH

Arghhhhhhhhhh!

CoGo is hopping mad that those two Edvard Munch masterpieces -- "Madonna" and the iconic "The Scream" -- were stolen last weekend from Oslo's Munch Museum. Now how are we going to get our Munch fix?

The works were still missing at press time, but according to Lise Mjos of the City of Oslo Art Collection, "everything is normal" for visitors. More than 1,000 of his paintings, 18,000 prints and 4,500-plus sketches remain on site.

The artist, luckily, often created different versions of the same paintings. So if you find yourself in Norway, you can see a twin of his signature work at Oslo's National Gallery.

Info: Munch Museum, 011-47-23- 49-3500, www.munch.museum.no. National Gallery, 011-47-22-20-0404, www.nasjonalgalleriet.no.

BARGAIN OF THE WEEK

Buenos Aires for Dos

Spend six nights in Buenos Aires for $1,198 -- for two. Details: What's the Deal?, Page P3.

Reporting: Cindy Loose, Anne McDonough, Carol Sottili.

Help feed CoGo. Send travel news to: cogo@washpost.com. By fax: 202-912-3609. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.