Southwest launches big fare sale


Southwest Airlines has launched a nationwide sale offering some eye-poppingly good deals for fall and winter travel. How about SFO to Chicago  and back for just $175 all in? Oakland to Denver for just $150? Or SFO all the way to Atlanta and back for less than $200? These are just a few samples of hundreds of really good deals on offer.



BUT, there’s a catch, as always… so don’t get your hopes up for a great deal during the peak holiday travel season. The fares are only good during what I call the “dead weeks.” These are the slowest travel days of the year—Wednesday, November 28 through Wednesday, December 12, 2012, and then again from Monday, Jan. 7 through Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013



These fares are excellent choices for business travelers who can schedule their meetings during these dips in demand when fares plummet.

They are also good for those who cannot afford peak holiday pricing and don’t mind postponing family visits or vacations.

They are also great options for skiers headed to the Rockies if the snow is not up to snuff in the Sierra in January.

Here are the details:

>Book your trip at by midnight on Thursday October 11, 2012. Note that Southwest and AirTran launched this fare sale today… and you can count on other airlines matching the sale later today with similar fares on competitive routes.

>To get these deals, you must enter the discount code BigDeal40 in the Promo Code box on or in order to receive the discount.

>Act fast. The sale is good for travel Wednesday, November 28 through Wednesday, December 12, 2012, and then again from Monday, Jan. 7 through Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 (Not good on Sundays and certain other blackout dates). The cheapest seats will sell out fast.

>Here are all the terms and conditions for Southwest.

A similar sale, but without the gimmicky discount code is also underway at Southwest subsidiary AirTran—check sale fares at

>by Chris McGinnis

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Coming soon to a flight near you: video streaming

(Photo: Kingair4 / Flickr)

JetBlue announced this week that it will (finally) offer a new, faster satellite-based inflight wi-fi product starting in early 2013. (Currently, JetBlue does not offer inflight wi-fi at all.)

JetBlue (with flights between SFO and Oakland to destinations such as Long Beach, Austin, Ft Lauderdale, New York, Washington and Boston) says that the new service from Live TV and ViaSat (not Gogo) will be fast enough to allow streaming of movies in-flight.  On its blog, JetBlue is promising that every passenger on the plane will be able to log on and have an “at-home experience” in terms of speed. The carrier offered no firm date for the launch, only promising “early 2013.” In an unusual twist, it says it will offer the service for free until the first 30 planes get it. After that, it will offer a tiered product, with a free basic connection, but charges for more bandwidth.

Not to be outdone by JetBlue, Delta says that it, too will offer the option of streaming movies and TV shows using inflight wi-fi on all 800 of its domestic two-class aircraft “by the end of 2013.” Delta currently provides Gogo wi-fi on its entire domestic fleet.

In related news, Canadian regulators have given the greelight to Gogo to get started on extending its ground-based network north of the US border. Service should be available starting in 2013.

Have you ever read The BAT’s sister publication, The TICKET? You should check it out! 

With SF-based Virgin America offering wi-fi on 100% of its flights, plus Delta, United and American providing it on all SFO>JFK flights, Bay Area Travelers (BATS!) are pretty spoiled. Such ubiquity is not the case elsewhere, and in fact, only 31% of domestic flights (1,165 aircraft) in the US have it. At Southwest, 35% of planes have it; 22% of American Airlines planes have it, and at United, the largest carrier in the world (and at SFO), only 1% of its flights have it, according to Business Travel News.

What is surprising is that usage of inflight wi-fi on the planes that offer it is miniscule—just a scant 5.4% on average for the first half of 2012 according to Gogo. I think that number is low because most flights are so short that it does not make sense to log on in-flight. But anyone who flies across the country frequently has witnessed a much higher usage rate- on some of those SFO-JFK flights sometimes it seems that the whole plane is logged on… and speed suffers as a result.  So all these promises of faster products are heartening.

Whether it is land-based or satellite-based,  the availability of wi-fi is THE deciding factor when I’m chosing an airline for flights longer than three hours. What about you? How important is in-flight wi-fi in your airline decision? Will you fly JetBlue more often if it comes through on its promise of a superfast in-flight wi-fi experience? Do we really need to stream video in-flight? Please leave your comments below.

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Early Thanksgiving-Christmas airfare sale

Southwest Airlines recently painted a 737 based on the Colorado state flag.

One of the biggest downsides of downsizing in the airline industry is that peak holiday airfares head into the stratosphere. Since 2005, the supply of airline seats flying around out there has declined about 10%. However, during holiday peaks, demand is the same or greater than before, which results in painful spikes in airfare.

Southwest and AirTran announced an interesting TWO DAY systemwide fare sale today, which offers nearly half off the going rate if you are willing to travel on the DAY of the holiday… i.e. Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

This sale fare applies to flights on Thanksgiving Day (Nov 22), Christmas Eve (Monday, Dec 24) and Christmas Day (Tuesday, Dec 25).

Take a look at how much you can save if you are willing to fly on off peak days around Thanksgiving.


If you can fly out on Thanksgiving Day and return on the Tuesday after, the lowest fare is just $318.

But if you can only fly on peak days…such as the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after, the lowest fare spikes to $532:


The same goes for Southwest or AirTran nonstops between SFO and Atlanta.

Let’s say you get up early and fly to Atlanta on Thanksgiving Day, getting there just in time for an evening feast (and then returning on the Tuesday after). The lowest fare is $366.

But if you travel when everyone else wants to, such as the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after, you’ll pay dearly, with the lowest fare at $619.


Keep in mind that this is good today through Thursday only… so if you are mulling heading home for the holidays, it might be a good time to start checking fares and making decisions. While I used Southwest as an example, you will likely find other airlines matching these fares later today.

Another important note- see how I only searched for NONSTOP flights? I always suggest traveling non-stop during the winter holidays- it reduces the likelihood of delays and offers the maximum amount of time with family for the holidays. You will likely see nonstop fares rise significantly as we approach the holidays, while one-stop fares might be lower.

Here’s the fine print regarding this sale (identical for Southwest and AirTran):

  • Purchase from August 28 through August 30, 2012, 11:59 pm Pacific Time.
  • Travel September 7 through February 13, 2013.
  • Blackout Dates Apply: October 5, October 12, October 19, November 16-November 21, November 23-November 26, December 20-December 23, December 26-December 31, 2012, and January 1-January 2, 2013.
  • Sale fares not valid for travel to New Orleans January 31-February 2 or February 6-February 9, 2013, nor from New Orleans February 4-February 5 or February 7-February 13, 2013.
  • Travel valid every day except Sundays.
  • Offer not available to/from Washington D.C. (Dulles); Key West, FL

What about you? Is it time to bite the bullet and commit to holiday travel plans? Given the strength of the summer travel season, I don’t expect to see many fare sales for the holidays this year… 



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Late summer fare sales require fast action

Southwest’s California flag-themed B737-one of my favorites- at SFO. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Several airlines have launched a pretty good fare sale for late summer trips- starting as soon as late July and lasting into fall months. However, you must act fast- the good deals are available for the next one to three days only.

For example, Virgin America is offering round trips of $156 (all in) for SFO to LA, San Diego or Las Vegas. Chicago is $378 round trip. Washington, DC and Philly are running at about $400 round trip. The popular SFO-JFK run does not seem to be included in this sale…nearly all fares, even on those awful red-eyes are in the $500 range. The sale fares are only good for travel Monday-Thursday from July 31 through September 12. If you fly on Tuesday or Weds, JetBlue will take you down to Long Beach for $130 round trip. To get these fares, you must book by this Wednesday, July 18 at midnight.

Southwest is offering a pretty good fall fare sale, but the deals don’t kick in until August 20 and are good for travel through December 14 (minus some blackout dates around holidays.) I found SFO-Atlanta for as little as $300 round trip (good on Southwest or AirTran). SFO or OAK to Chicago Midway is about $350. There are plenty of other cities on sale from the Bay Area, so just click on the link above to see them. Sale fares on Southwest or AirTran are available on all days except Sunday, and must be booked by this Friday, July 20.

United has Denver or Austin on sale for about $250 round trip (all in) during August and September. New York JFK and Chicago are in the low $400′s all in. Boston for $360 round trip is not bad for August. You can still buzz over to London (everyone I’ve talked to says that it’s as polished and ready as ever) for just $880 round trip in September or October when the crowds have gone home and the weather is at its best. How about SFO-San Juan, Puerto Rico for just $315 round trip? I’ve rarely seen fares from the Bay to the Caribbean as low as that! Midweek trips from the Bay Area to Honolulu are down as low as $450 which is not bad for mid-August. United has not published an end date for booking, but it’s likely similar to other airlines… which are running for the next 24-48 hours only.

Most other major carriers have matched these fares so shop around if you can’t find what you are looking for. Please keep in mind that I checked these fares on Tuesday morning, July 17, so they are subject to change.

It is interesting to see airlines discounting fares for travel during August- typically one of the busiest and most expensive times of the year for air travel. Clearly, demand for summer trips has not met the airlines’ expectations, which is a signal to me that consumers are becoming increasingly skittish.

What about you? Are you up for a late summer vacation? Or are you making plans for business trips this fall? Are these fares low enough to make you jump? 



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Messier at T1, new flights to Europe, UAL leaves OAK, PreCheck at SFO

(Photo: Rolling Thunder / Flickr)

MESSIER AT SFO T1. The BAT has learned that UAL has quietly expanded the list of cities it serves from Terminal 1 at SFO to at least two more than we reported in early June. This week we’ve heard from surprised readers on flights to or from Denver, Los Angeles LAX and Portland PDX using Terminal 1.  There’s little rhyme or reason…or transparency… about this from United, which makes the situation all the more frustrating. Just remember: If your boarding pass says gate 87 or 92A-F, United will tell you to enter at Terminal 3, go to the gate and take a shuttle bus under the airport to Terminal 1. But BAT readers know that if you have no luggage to check, you can enter directly at Terminal 1. If your plane arrives SFO at Terminal 1 and you have no checked bags, you exit at Terminal 1. If you have checked bags or a connecting flight, United will direct you to the shuttle for a ride back over to Terminal 3. Have you experienced this merry-go-round yet? If so, please leave your comments below.

UAL SEZ BUH-BYE OAKLAND. United took its very last flight out of Oakland on Sunday, June 4 with a flight to Denver. United had served Oakland for more than 75 years, and the airport gave the final flight a ceremonial spray from a fire truck. Over the years, Southwest has made its mark at OAK, and this undoubtedly had an influence on UAL’s declining fortunes there.

(Photo: Virgin America)

PORTLANDIA. Virgin America inaugurated new flights to Portland earlier this month—and celebrated by naming its newest A320 “Mount Hoodie.” Clever!

AIR FRANCE’S LARGEST LOUNGE. Fly to Paris much? Then you should check out this slideshow of Air France’s chic new business class lounge at Paris CDG—it’s the largest lounge in the system and open to business, first and SkyTeam partner passengers.

GIMME FREE WIFI. Seeking free hotel wifi? Silicon Valley based hotel booking site Room77 allows users to filter hotels by availability of free wi-fi. Smart!

STOLEN LAPTOPS. Some airports are worse than others when it comes to laptop theft. A recent study found that Atlanta-ATL is #1 for laptop theft in the US. SFO ranks fifth worst after Miami-MIA, Chicago-ORD, Orlando-MCO. Frankfurt is #1 outside the US.

MORE CLEAR. The CLEAR card, which is back at SFO with its popular expedited security screening service, expanded to Terminal E (serving UAL, Delta, Virgin, etc) at Dallas-Ft Worth airport last week. CLEAR is now available at all terminals at SFO. It’s also in operation at Denver and Orlando airports. If you had a CLEAR card in it’s previous life, whatever time you had left on it when the company shut down is now valid at SFO—so get bring your old card to SFO and give it a try. The service costs $179 per year.

Photo: Olivier Cabaret / Flickr

EURO-AIR. Are you aware of all the new airlines flying to Europe from the Bay Area? To make hay while the summer sun shines, airlines such as XL Airways (SFO-Paris CDG), Arkefly (OAK-Amsterdam AMS), Air Berlin (SFO-Dusseldorf) and Sata (OAK-Azores) now offer nonstops across the pond. All are offering roundtrip fares in the $1500 range—not much different than what you’ll currently find on more mainstream carriers. Note: These carriers do not offer daily service—it’s more like 1-3 times per week. Also, we don’t hear much about these carriers here since they are more focused on European business than US business—which becomes immediately evident when you try to search for fares on their balky websites.

EURO-CHEAPO? If those fares seem high, here’s some good news: The US dollar gaining rapidly on the euro, making trips across the pond a little easier on American wallets. Currently, you can buy a euro for about $1.25, and from the looks of this chart, it could be closed to $1.10 by this fall.

PRECHECK COMING TO SFO. Eventually. United has (finally) joined American and Delta as airline partners with TSA for it’s popular PreCheck expedited security screening program. However, United only has PreCheck at Chicago-ORD for now. The TSA’s western region spokesperson Nico Melendez told The BAT that while the agency expects to have PreCheck at SFO this year, there is still no formal date for introduction.

DELAY AT ANA FOR SJC. ANA has quietly pushed back the introduction of new nonstops between San Jose International and Tokyo using a new B787 Dreamliner into 2013. Last fall ANA said that service would start in 2012. Hmmm.

MORE BIZ CLASS ON UAL. United has revamped the first of 14 Boeing 767-300s with its new lie-flat business class seat—all facing forward, unlike the forward/rear facing seats on its B777s. United spokesperson Charles Hobart told The BAT that the newly configured 767’s won’t be flying internationally out of SFO but will be doing occasional domestic turns.

Bedroom at Las Alcobas, my fave hotel in Mexico City (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

MEXICO CITY. Got business in Mexico City? Check out my latest BBC Business Trip: Mexico City column for my take on latest, greatest and newest business class hotels, restaurants, airport lounges. Surprise: Mexico City has cut its pollution in half, and its downtown is safe, cosmopolitan and a lot of fun. Factoid: The city’s elevation is 7,200 feet—that’s 2,000 or so feet higher than Denver!

If this information was helpful to you, please subscribe to The BAT via e-mail- and tell your friends about it, too!


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Deal ALERT: Late summer/fall fares sales start early

If peak season fares will keep you grounded this summer, here’s some great news: This morning, and kicked off a decent late summer/early fall fare sale, but you’ve got to act fast. That’s because the sale only lasts 72-hours and only a handful of seats on each plane are selling at the discounted prices. Here are the specifics:

>Travel dates: Travel must take place between Monday, August 13 and Wednesday, November 14.

>Roundtrip fares range from $100 to $280 roundtrip (all in), based on flight length. For travel up to 500 miles, fares are $100 round trip. For travel 501 to 1,300 miles, fares are $200 round trip. For travel 1,301 or more miles, fares are $280 round trip. (Fares are available one-way.)

>This is a 72-hour sale, so tickets must be purchased online at or between today and midnight Thursday, June 14.

>Sale fares are NOT available on Fridays or Sundays.  Blackout dates: Aug. 18, Aug. 30, Sept. 3, and Sept. 4, 2012.

>I expect United, Delta and other carriers to match most of these fares by later today, so shop around if you don’t find the fare you want.

>Based on what we’ve seen fare-wise this summer, these are some great deals. Sample roundtrip Southwest or AirTran fares from SFO/OAK/SJC include:

$100: Burbank, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Ontario, Orange County, Reno,  San Diego

$200: Albuquerque, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle

$280: Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Houston

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Spring-Summer fare sales creep out

Virgin America's new San Francisco Giants bearded livery. Thoughts?

Some good news for travelers… but not such great news for the economy today…

Typically summer fare sales don’t start until AFTER Easter. But this week, and in the weeks leading up to it, we’ve seen airlines kicking off the summer fare sale season a little bit early.

That’s good news for travelers worried that high oil prices that could translate into higher ticket prices, which could put a crimp in their summer vacation plans.

But when airlines put fares on sale early, it’s a signal to me that advance bookings for the summer might be a little weak. To me, this means that consumer confidence is still waning as travelers take a “wait and see” approach to summer vacation.

For the most part, spring and summer fare sales so far have been fairly restrictive- for example, many require travel on slow days like Tuesdays or Wednesdays in order to get the lowest fares. Most sales only last for a few days. Plus, I’ve not seen too many sale fares that go deep into peak summer travel season- most up to this point have been good for trips into mid-June only. A quick scan of peak (July-August) fares still shows a few eye-poppers- with no sales so far during the summer peak.

Here are the details on the current crop of early summer fare sales- they are led by low fare carriers, but majors are matching these deals, too. (All sample fares below are for roundtrips and include all taxes and fees. These fares were available when I checked on the morning of April 3, but are subject to selling out.)

VIRGIN AMERICA: In honor of its partnership with the San Francisco Giants and the newest member of its fleet taking to the skies this week (see the Giants-inspired “Fly Bye Baby” bearded aircraft above), Virgin America launched a “#flythebeard” fare sale. Sample roundtrip fares for travel through June 13 are: $160 to Las Vegas, Los Angeles or San Diego or $280 round trip to New York. A special introductory fare of $218 to Portland is good for flights from June 5 through Oct 17. Sale expires April 5. Details.

JETBLUE has a great one-day sale that expires tonight at midnight tonight, but you can fly all the way through June 20. Not available on Fridays or Sundays. Sample sale fares from SFO: Long Beach $100. Austin $200; New York JFK $240 or to Boston or Ft Lauderdale for $280. Details

UNITED is offering round flights to Seattle for just $200; Austin for $249; Denver $278; Dallas Ft Worth or Newark for $320. Details.

SOUTHWEST is offering a 24-hour sale for flights to/from Chicago Midway. From SFO, you can fly for $287.50 round trip on Tuesdays or Wednesdays or Saturdays through May 23. Details

Are these fares low enough to spur you into action, or are you going to wait and see what else might come along? Please leave your comments below!


Holiday Travel: “Dead Week” airfare sale

Photo: Flickr / Andertho


If you’ve been putting off business trips, blown off your family back home, or missed that romantic weekend away because airfares are too high, you should check out the new “dead week” deals offered by Southwest and AirTran.

Dead weeks are the annual low points in travel demand each year, which ironically come in the midst of the peak holiday travel season. And when demand plummets, so do prices. However, the catch is that you’ve got to travel when everyone else is staying at home.

Dead weeks typically fall during the first few weeks of December right after the big Thanksgiving rush, and again right after the Christmas/New Years rush in early January.

In a 72-hour sale that starts today, Southwest and AirTran are now offering some pretty remarkable fares for travel during this period. Keep in mind also that hotel rates and car rental rates  plummet (except in NYC during December). There are also tons of last minute deals as desperate suppliers try to dump unsold seats, rooms and cars. Note that many Rocky Mountain destinations are great for skiing in January.

Here are the deals from Southwest and AirTran…I imagine by the time you read this other airlines will have matched them. For 72-hours only, you can purchase one-way tickets for $35, $65, $95 or $125 based on length of travel (Add $25-$35 to each of these round trips to cover taxes/fees. Fares are not valid on SUNDAYS.)

  • For travel up to 450 miles, fares are $35 one-way, $70 round trip. (Most destinations in California)
  • For travel 451 to 1,000 miles, fares are $65 one-way, $130 round trip. (Boise, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake, Seattle)
  • For travel 1,001 to 1,500 miles, fares are $95 one-way, $190 round trip. (Bozeman, Denver, Albuquerque)
  • For travel 1,501 or more miles, fares are $125 one-way, $250 round trip. (Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Chicago, Washington)

These low fares are available for purchase through 11:59 p.m. PST October 20, 2011, for travel beginning Nov. 30 through Dec. 14, 2011 and Jan. 4 through Feb. 15, 2012. See

As a part of the effort to spread low fares farther through the integration of two airlines, AirTran Airways will launch a parallel fare sale. See

(Chris McGinnis publishes The BAT and The TICKET blogs for frequent travelers.)

What’s your outlook for fall travel?

By the time you get back to the office on Tuesday, business travel season will have kicked in and road warriors can begin to reclaim their space at airports, on planes and at hotels. But given recent fluctuations in financial markets and economic uncertainty….what’s it going to be like out there over the next 4-6 months? Are travelers cutting back? Are fares and rates rising or falling?

At the recent Global Business Travel Association convention in Denver, I wrangled interviews with some of the most important executives in attendance— from the likes of American Express, British Airways, Southwest Airlines, Best Western and Singapore Air. I asked them about their outlook for the fall business travel season…. click on the video above to hear their answers.

What’s your outlook? Do you plan on traveling more, less or about the same amount this fall compared to last fall? Has the recent roller coaster ride in financial markets clipped your wings at all? Please take a peek at the 3-minute video, and leave your comments below!

Fall Travel Sales Begin- Act Fast

(Photo: Flickr / Telstar

If steep fares are keeping you grounded this summer, there’s relief in sight.

Southwest Airlines kicked off a big sale for fall travel with fares significantly lower than what we are paying this summer. If you have firm plans to travel this fall, The BAT recommends that you take advantage of this sale.

Systemwide fares are based on mileage and priced at $40, $80 or $120 each way.

Sample fares for travel between August 23 through November 16 from SFO or OAK. (Fridays and Sundays and Labor Day-Sept 1-5-  are blacked out.)

> LA, San Diego, So Cal: $40 each way; $80 round trip

>Denver or Phoenix: $80 each way; $160 round trip

>Chicago-Midway: $120 each way; $240 round trip

What’s most interesting about this sale is that it includes Southwest’s new subsidiary, AirTran.

>Nonstop SFO to Atlanta or Milwaukee, and then beyond: $120 each way; $240 round trip (That’s dirt cheap for east coast flights!)

If these fares sound good to you (and they should!) you must act fast: The sale is only good between now and 11:59 pm Thursday.

Although they have not formally announced a sale matching Southwest yet, when searching for fares on Virgin America or United, you will find those that match Southwest’s (in markets where they compete nonstop.)

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