The $99 coast-to-coast air fare has returned … if you don’t mind making a stop or two along the way.
Southwest Airlines, which has offered similarly low fares off and on in the past six months, launched a new fare sale Thursday that includes one-way prices of $99 or less on every route it serves.
The sale, which continues through Feb. 10, is notable for its unusually long travel window of nearly six months. Sale tickets can be bought for travel through Aug. 4.
From Spokane, passengers can travel round-trip to Portland, Seattle and Boise for $73. A round-trip fare from Seattle to Oakland is $144. And for $196, the cities to which Spokane passengers can fly round trip include Las Vegas, Phoenix, Baltimore, Chicago, Albuquerque and New Orleans.
Other major airlines began matching Southwest Thursday, at least where they compete head-to-head or on a nonstop vs. one-stop flight basis. American and Trans World airlines were the first to jump into the fray Thursday. Other major carriers were expected to follow suit Friday.
The sale fares carry only modest restrictions, such as a minimum one-night stay and a round-trip purchase. They also require a seven-day advance purchase, but that requirement is meaningless for any travel after Feb. 17 because the last day to buy one of the sale fares is Feb. 10.
Southwest spokesman Ed Stewart said the sale is just one of a series of periodic discounts it has been using in the past few years to occasionally reassert its position as the industry’s leading fare cutter.
But the sale also comes just one week after the Dallas-based carrier announced strong profits.
“Things are going great for Southwest right now,” Stewart said. “That’s why we’re doing this now. We’re not going to let up. Why stop now? We’re carrying big (passenger) loads, especially for this time of year. But we want to keep people coming out and getting on our planes, and this should do it.”
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