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Southwest just launched a 72-hour sale now through June 13 for travel between August 26-December 2013 with one-way fares starting as low as $49. Even if you’ve already purchased a ticket, whether using points or cash, for travel during this time period you may want to re-price the itinerary and Southwest will give you a voucher for the difference if the price dropped.
Here’s how it works (fares are one-way):
For flights between 0-500 miles: Fares start at $49
For flights between 501-1,250 miles: Fares start at $99
For flights between 1,251-1,750 miles: Fares start at $129
For flights over 1,751 miles: Fares start at $149
To calculate mileage distances, I use gcmap.com Distance calculator– just enter the airport codes in the “Control paths” section, for example BWI-MDW (Baltimore to Chicago Midway). To look up airport codes, go here.
Blackout dates of September 2, and November 26-December 3 apply. Travel is valid every day except Fridays-Sundays. Also note that fares “start” at these prices but can get higher depending on the date and the route, so play around with dates if you have any flexibility in your plans to get the best prices.
Fares are also not available to/from the following cities: Dayton, OH; Washington (Reagan National), DC; New York (Newark); Philadelphia, PA; Washington (Dulles), DC; New York (LaGuardia); West Palm Beach, FL; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Fort Myers, FL; and Seattle, WA. Fares may also not be combined with any other Southwest combinable fares or with Senior Fares, and are nonrefundable.
Using Points and Companion Pass
Fare sales with Southwest also mean that less Rapid Rewards points are required as well. For a $160 Wanna Get Away fare ticket, you only need to use 8,280 points – over 1.9 cents each in value. You can transfer in from Chase Ultimate Rewards at an instant 1:1 ratio, so now could be a good time to book your travel, especially if you have the Southwest Companion Pass, where you’d be getting not only a discount on your ticket, but another one for free, making your travel savings even more significant.
To take a quick example, if you wanted to fly from Atlanta to Vegas in September for a long weekend, you can find flights for as low as $129 each way ($258 roundtrip).
On Delta, for the same dates, comparable non-stop flights would cost you $444 roundtrip – and if you don’t have elite status, you’ll end up paying for any luggage you check whereas Southwest gives you 2 bags for free and will let you change your itinerary without a change fee (though you would have to pay any fare difference).
This roundtrip itinerary from New York LGA to LAX, I was able to find plenty of fares on Southwest for around $300 – including this one – while other carriers are still charging fares starting at around $360 for the same dates from all NYC area airports to LAX.
Although on these routes I couldn’t find comparable fares, I suspect other carriers will start matching these fares on a lot of routes. For example, on this roundtrip from Denver to Austin in September, Southwest clocked in at $89 each way for a total of $178.
And it turns out that United and Frontier matched this fare on certain flights on this route as well, so you have lots of options at the $178 mark.
If Southwest isn’t your preferred carrier, or you want to earn miles/status with another carrier that flies your routes, you can then search an online travel site like Orbitz or Expedia to see if your preferred carrier is matching Southwest’s fares and then just book that instead. Check out this post the best ways to maximize the purchase of airfare.
Also remember that many office supply stores sell Southwest gift cards, which you can earn 5 Chase points per dollar by using the Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards. So think about it – you earn Southwest points (worth over 1.9 cents apiece) – that is like getting an additional 9.5% back in future Southwest redemptions by purchasing gift cards from office suppliers using Ink.
While not all of these are amazing deals, there are some real value propositions here, especially on sometimes-expensive regional routes and to little non-hub airports.