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Southwest Airlines sale: Round-trip tickets under $100


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No assigned seats? Here are some of the biggest things that set Southwest Airlines apart from other carriers.
USA TODAY

Southwest Airlines will launch one of its twice-yearly mega fare sales Tuesday, with round-trip tickets as low as $98 on short flights.

The fall fare sale, which covers travel between Aug. 20 and Dec. 18, excluding Labor Day and Thanksgiving, features one-way fares of $49, $79, $99 and $129 depending on the route. 

It is designed to fill seats during the slow travel period after summer vacation season and before the busy year-end holiday and school break travel rush. Tickets must be purchased by Thursday, June 6.

The prices are similar to last year’s fall fare sale, but the airline is allowing travel deeper into December than it did a year ago. Last year’s cutoff date was Dec. 12.

Southwest’s other big fare sale is in early October.

The fine print of Southwest’s three-day late summer/fall fare sale

  • Summer travel is largely excluded unless you can get away after Aug. 20. Forget about Labor Day weekend. It’s blacked out.  
  • Forget about Thanksgiving travel, too. Sale fares are not available  Nov. 22-Dec. 2.
  • Not all cities are included, and nonstop flights are required in many cases.
  • Friday and Sunday travel is excluded, ruling out quick weekend getaways.
  • Sale fares to Las Vegas and most cities in Florida, big vacation destinations, are limited to Sundays-Wednesdays, and return trips are only on Tuesdays-Fridays. So forget about snagging a deal for a weekend bachelor party in Vegas.
  • Deals on international flights are limited to Tuesday and Wednesday travel.
  • Travel to and from San Juan, Puerto Rico, is limited to Monday-Thursday, affecting travelers taking a cruise out of the city’s port.

Here’s a sampling of where you can go for $49 one way: 

Atlanta-Nashville

Phoenix-Las Vegas

Here’s where you can go for $79 one way 

Kansas City, Missouri-San Antonio

Portland, Oregon-San Diego

Here’s where you can go for $99 one way

Washington, D.C. (Reagan National Airport)-New Orleans

Dallas Love Field-San Jose, California

Here’s where you can go for $129 one way 

Boston-St. Louis 

Houston (Hobby Airport)-Oakland, California

Southwest has a list of sale fares and destinations on its website

Booking tips for Southwest’s three-day fare sale 

1. Use Southwest’s low-fare calendar to search for dates with the lowest fares. You might even find a few with fares lower than the sale fares. 

2. Shop other airlines. Carriers tend to match, or even undercut, each other’s fares on competing routes during a sale. Search prices on airline websites, online travel agencies or travel search sites. Travel with a lot of luggage? Factor in the cost of bags on other carriers. The first checked bag is $30, the second $40, each way, on the biggest U.S. airlines. Discounters like Spirit and Frontier charge varying prices. Southwest allows two free checked bags. 

3. Find a sale price one way but not the return? You can combine the two for a round-trip ticket and still save money. Or book two one-way tickets: fly Southwest one way and another carrier on the return. 

4. Worried about booking a fall flight this far in advance? Southwest won’t refund your money on its cheapest fares, but it will issue a credit to be used on a future flight by the named passenger. (Meaning you can’t book a cheap flight between Los Angeles and Chicago during the sale, cancel it and use the money for your kid’s trip home from college.)

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Still looking for a summer flight deal? Today is a popular day to shop  

Even though Southwest’s sale excludes most summer travel, especially for families with school-age children, the high-profile sale prompts a plethora of travelers to book summer travel on the first Tuesday of June, according to Hipmunk

The travel search site looked at historical data for summer travel bookings and found that there are 90 percent more summer flight bookings on the first Tuesday in June than other days from June-August, so it dubbed today “Summer Travel Tuesday.” (Southwest bookings are not included in Hipmunk’s data because Southwest only sells tickets directly on its website or through its reservations center.)

Hipmunk spokeswoman Kelly Soderlund attributed the spike in bookings to the “halo effect” of the Southwest sale, which is usually the first Tuesday in June, and summer promotions from other airlines.

More on Southwest:

Southwest Airlines User’s Guide

Flying Southwest to Hawaii: Coconut rum, snack packs and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”

Southwest is eliminating paper ticket jackets  

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