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Low-cost airfare is back: Fly from $21 on full-service carriers into 2021

Sept. 19, 2020
4 min read
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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials' guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.

Low-cost airfare is officially back.

We saw this coming with the recent Alaska Airlines buy one, get one sale, and United award tickets selling from 5,000 miles each way.

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Though we're still in the midst of a pandemic, with masks required on all U.S. airlines and quarantines still in effect when entering many states, several domestic airlines are clearly ready to try and stimulate demand the old fashioned way with cheap airfare.

How cheap, you ask? We're talking $21 from New York to Florida on a full-service airline cheap, or $57 for a transcontinental flight on a low-cost airline. Seriously.

Related: What it's like to fly in the U.S. right now

There's certainly room for very reasonable debate about whether now is the best time for more travelers to leave home and take to the sky just because the tickets are cheap. But, with TSA screening numbers still generally trending upward week over week (reaching, so far, over 800,000 people daily), people are flying.

So, if you've decided to fly again, you might as well get the best deal you can.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Another upside of these unusually cheap tickets is that you don't have much money on the line if you need to ditch your travel plans at the last minute.

In many cases, the airlines are still allowing you to change your plans without penalty, but if you paid several hundred dollars for a ticket, that's still several hundred dollars you'll have tied up with the airline until you do ultimately fly. But if you only paid $21 for a ticket, that's a relatively inexpensive purchase if you change your mind.

Related: 5 tips for planning a trip during the ongoing pandemic

Here are some evergreen tips for finding the cheapest flights, but if you're curious about the low fares airlines are advertising right now, here's a sample of deals we've found well below normal prices. We mostly highlighted discounted basic economy fares on full-service carriers.

  • Newark (EWR) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL): $21 one-way on United, dates into late January 2021
  • Newark to Austin: $26 one-way on Spirit, dates into March 2021
  • Chicago (ORD) to New York (LGA) $40 one-way on American or United, dates into February 2021
  • Denver (DEN) to Chicago: $41 one-way on United or American, dates into February 2021 (tickets start at $20 on Frontier)
  • Houston (IAH) to Newark: $43 one-way on United, dates into December
  • Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Chicago: $49 one-way on United, dates into February 2021
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Austin (AUS): $50 one-way on United, American, and JetBlue dates into January 2021 (tickets start at $38 on Spirit)
  • Dallas (DFW) to Orlando (MCO): $50 one-way on American, dates into December (tickets start at $24 on Frontier)
  • Miami to Los Angeles: $57 one-way on American, dates into March 2021

Related: We compared pandemic-era flights on four airlines, here's what it was like

Moulton Barn, Grand Tetons, Jackson Wyoming
Moulton Barn at the base of the Grand Tetons in Jackson Wyoming. (Photo by strickke / Getty Images)

Bottom line

It's been a long time since there were so many opportunities to fly for around the cost of a meal at Applebees on carriers such as United and American.

Coincidentally (or not), these are the airlines not guaranteeing blocked middle seats. If you want to ensure you'll have that extra space, you may need to budget in the cost of buying a second seat, too.

Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh

Featured image by Getty Images

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
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Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases