Southwest’s big flash sale: Fares drop below $100 round-trip on dozens of routes

Oct 1, 2019

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Bargain hunters, fire up your browsers. Southwest’s giant twice-a-year fare sale is back!

Southwest Airlines rolled out the sale Tuesday, sending round-trip fares below $100 on dozens of the carrier’s shortest routes as part of a 72-hour flash sale.

Southwest’s longer routes are on sale too, with the carrier roughly pegging its sale fares to distance. The cheapest fares in the airline’s sale begin at $49 each way and increase to tiers of $79, $99 and $129 on longer routes.

The three-day fare sale has become a twice-a-year mainstay for the carrier, rolling out each June and October. The sales are notable not only because of fares being offered, but also because of how broadly they’re usually available across Southwest’s nationwide network.

Related: Snapshot: A Look at Southwest Airlines by the Numbers

Southwest’s sale from June 2015 created so much demand that bargain-seekers overwhelmed the airline’s website and caused it to crash. Southwest subsequently extended its sale by an additional day that year.

The blockbuster sales help Southwest drum up publicity. But what’s probably even more important to the carrier is that the they help juice sales during one of the slowest times of the year for air travel.

The October sale that kicked off Tuesday covers flights beginning in early mid-November through mid-December and again after the winter holiday. That puts flights on sale as demand slows ahead of the Christmas holiday and again as travel demand wanes after New Year’s. The busy windows covering the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays are blacked out.

The sales that are now a staple for Southwest initially got their start from an iteration the airline debuted earlier this decade, when it tied fares specifically to flight distance. Flights of 500 miles or less were priced at $49 one way, and then they increased by length of the route. The airline charged $99 one way for flights of 501 to 1,000 miles; $129 one way for flights of 1,001 to 1,500 miles; and $149 one way for flights longer than 1,500 miles.

Related: Choosing the most-rewarding Southwest credit card

The recent Southwest sales are no longer precisely tied to distance, though the fare structure tends to loosely mimic the original distance-based version.

Fine print and restrictions

Before you go book, familiarize yourself with the fine print.

The sale, which rolled out Tuesday morning, covers domestic mainland travel from Nov. 13 through Feb. 12, though there are notable blackout dates around  the major holidays.

Blackout dates for mainland U.S. routes include:

  • Nov. 22-Dec. 3
  • Dec. 19-Jan. 5

Friday and Saturday flights are excluded from the sale, though flights on those days can be combined with sale fares on other days.

Related: Southwest Airlines Is Ending All Flights From Newark Liberty

Flights between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland are not included in the fare sale. Sale fares apply to inter-island flights, though the fine print differs. Most notably, the sale only covers Tuesday and Wednesday flights for inter-island travel. The full fine print is available on Southwest’s website.

There are different day-of-week restrictions on the sale fares on Southwest’s flights in Las Vegas, Florida and Puerto Rico. International travel also has differing fine print, including more day-of-travel restrictions. The details are spelled out on Southwest’s website.

The number of seats Southwest makes available at fare-sale prices are limited on any given flight, meaning the cheapest fares likely will thin out the longer the sale goes on.

And remember the sale window is short. It ends Thursday (Oct. 3) at 11:59 p.m. PT.

Aside from the restrictions, there also are a few relatively customer-friendly allowances. Sale fares can be booked one way or round trip and can be combined with non-sale fares.

Availability

A quick Tuesday morning spot-check of Southwest’s site by TPG showed fairly broad availability of the published sale fares. The advertised $49 fares appear on many of Southwest’s shortest routes, though some days and months show more availability than others. (Tip: Use Southwest’s low-fare calendar to search for the lowest fares.)

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Examples included:

Oakland to Los Angeles

A screenshot from Southwest’s website on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, showed $49 fares available between Oakland and Los Angeles.

 

Baltimore to Boston 

A screenshot from Southwest's website on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, showed $49 fares available between Boston and BWI.
A screenshot from Southwest’s website on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, showed $49 fares available between Boston and BWI.

 

Chicago Midway to Minneapolis/St. Paul

 

A screenshot from Southwest's website on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, showed $49 fares available between Chicago Midway and Minneaspolis/St. Paul.
A screenshot from Southwest’s website on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, showed $49 fares available between Chicago Midway and Minneaspolis/St. Paul.

Full fine print for the sale (via Southwest Airlines)

  • Purchase from October 1 through October 3, 2019, 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time.
  • Continental U.S. travel valid November 13, 2019, through February 12, 2020. Interisland Hawaii travel valid December 4 through December 18, 2019, and January 2 through February 12, 2020. Travel to/from San Juan, Puerto Rico valid November 13 through December 5, 2019, and January 13 through March 5, 2020. International travel valid November 13 through December 11, 2019, and January 7 through March 5, 2020.
  • Continental U.S. travel blacked out November 22-December 3, 2019 & December 19, 2019-January 5, 2020.
  • Except as otherwise specified, continental U.S. travel is not valid on Fridays and Sundays. Travel to Ft. Myers/Naples, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Orlando, and Las Vegas and from Ft. Myers/Naples, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Orlando to Las Vegas is valid only on Sundays through Wednesdays. Travel from Ft. Myers/Naples, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Orlando and Las Vegas and from Las Vegas to Ft. Myers/Naples, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Tampa, and Orlando is valid only on Tuesdays through Fridays. Interisland Hawaii travel is valid Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Travel to/from San Juan, Puerto Rico is valid Monday – Thursday. International travel is valid Monday – Thursday. Travel to Mexico is valid only on Sundays through Wednesdays. Travel from Mexico is valid only on Tuesdays through Fridays.
  • Fares valid on nonstop service where indicated; if not indicated, fares are valid on single connecting service.
  • Displayed prices include all U.S. and international government taxes and fees.
  • Points bookings do not include taxes, fees, and other government/airport charges of at least $5.60 per one-way flight.
  • Fares not available to/from continental U.S. to/from Hawaii. Fares not available to/from Orange County (SNA).
  • Seats and days are limited. Fares may vary by destination, flight, and day of week and won’t be available on some flights that operate during very busy travel times and holiday periods.
  • Travel is available for one-way Wanna Get Away® fares.
  • Fares may be combined with other Southwest Airlines® combinable fares. If combining with other fares, the most restrictive fare’s rules apply.
  • Sale fares may be available on other days of week, but that’s not guaranteed.
  • Fares are nonrefundable but may be applied toward future travel on Southwest Airlines®, as long as reservations are canceled at least ten minutes prior to the scheduled departure. Failure to cancel prior to departure will result in forfeiture of remaining funds on the reservation.
  • Any change in itinerary may result in an increase in fare. Standby travel may require an upgrade to the Anytime fare depending on Rapid Rewards® tier status.
  • Fares are subject to change until ticketed.
  • Offer applies only to published, scheduled service.

 

Featured photo by Patrick T. Fallon for The Points Guy.

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