Southwest Airlines has rolled out a rare fare sale that includes broad discounts on summertime travel.
The 96-hour sale, announced Tuesday morning, drops one-way fares below $50 on dozens of the carrier’s shortest routes for travel from early June into the fall.
The sale fares also include longer routes, with the price of flights loosely tied to distance. Flights begin at $49 each way on Southwest’s shortest routes and increase to $79, $99 or $149 each way for longer flights.
The sale comes as Southwest has acknowledged softer ticket sales following a highly publicized April incident in which a passenger died onboard one of its flights.
“We noted on our recent earnings call that we saw an impact to our bookings following Flight #1380,” Southwest spokeswoman Thais Hanson said in a statement to USA TODAY’s Today in the Sky blog. “As we go back into the market with full marketing efforts for the first time since Flight #1380 we’re giving our direct distribution model a boost in order to stimulate bookings to our website.”
For customers interested in taking advantage of the rare summertime sale, there is some significant fine print.
The most restrictive: The lowest fares are good only for flights on Tuesdays and Wednesday.
However, those fares can be combined with higher fares on other days of the week. A Tuesday-morning search of Southwest’s website showed broad availability of the $49 sale fares on advertised routes. Some of those also showed fares of $59 and $69 for flights on other days of the week, though that availability was less broad and varied by route.
As for the rest of the fine print, the sale includes travel from June 5 through Oct. 31. It covers only domestic routes (Portland, Maine, is excluded from this sale). Tickets must be booked by the end of Friday (May 18), but at least 21 days in advance. Day-of-week restrictions on sale fares to San Juan, Puerto Rico, are less strict, covering flights from Monday through Thursday.
Southwest warned that the fares "won't be available on some flights that operate during very busy travel times and holiday periods." The airline didn't citie specific holidays, but both Independence Day and Labor Day fall within the sale window.
The sale fares apply specifically to non-stop options, though some connecting itineraries may also show lower-than-usual fares. Seats sold at the sale prices are capacity controlled, meaning the cheapest seats will likely sell out on individual flights.
A sampling of the sub-$50 one-way options with reasonable availability as of Tuesday morning included (but were not limited to):
Amarillo-Dallas Love; Phoenix-Albuquerque; Atlanta-Jacksonville, Fla.; Nashville-Atlanta; Atlanta-Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.; Austin-Dallas Love; Boston-Baltimore; Baltimore-Columbus, Ohio; Boise-Spokane; Sacramento-Burbank, Calif.; Charlotte-Nashville; Chicago Midway-Cincinnati; Pittsburgh-Chicago Midway; Cleveland-Milwaukee; Oklahoma City-Dallas Love; St. Louis-Des Moines; Detroit-Baltimore; Houston Hobby-New Orleans; Kansas City-Milwaukee; Las Vegas-Orange County, Calif.; Salt Lake City-Las Vegas; St. Louis-Little Rock; Oakland-Long Beach, Calif.; Los Angeles-San Francisco; Los Angeles-Reno; Pensacola, Fla.-Nashville; New Orleans-Atlanta; Providence-Washington Reagan National; San Antonio-Houston Hobby; Wichita-St. Louis; and San Diego-San Jose, Calif.