$39 Domestic Tickets: Price May Now Matter Enough To Spur Travel

U.S. airlines are almost seeing one quarter of the passengers who traveled pre-pandemic. That’s nearly all domestic travel, so benefits Southwest disproportionately relative to United.

Ned Russell points out newly announced sales from Southwest, Alaska, and JetBlue. Sun Country and Allegiant are out with sale emails too. Traditionally Tuesdays are big for promoting airline sales, but seeing everyone do it suggests they now believe,

  • Passengers are more open to travel
  • And can be motivated again by price

Dawn Gilbertson notes that traditionally Southwest Airlines promoted sales ‘start at $49’ but this one promotes $39 airfares. Low fares are a leading indicator of airline recovery because they suggest it’s possible to convince people to travel. Up until now many people have been unwilling to travel at any price.

To be sure, many people still will not travel (and some people still should not travel). Sales target leisure travelers, not business travelers who will take longer to return. And the overall economy will be a drag on air travel demand.

Customers overall are booking later, so sales now many help July traffic more than end of summer, given the amount of uncertainty in the country. However the cheapest prices in Southwest’s sale appear to start around August 10. I expect that July will be stronger than June for air traffic and I am hopeful that August will be stronger still, though that may depend on the direction the virus takes in the U.S. as time passes.

Southwest delayed their ‘semi-annual’ sale a few weeks compared to when they usually run deals over the summer. However August is a traditional start for when those fares become available. That comforts me, because I’d otherwise start to worry that August was looking soft relative to July.

Southwest flags several routes where $39 one-ways are available, including Baltimore – Charlotte, Charleston, Detroit, Hartford; Chicago Midway – Indianapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati; Phoenix – Las Vegas, Albuquerque, San Diego; Houston Hobby – New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Dallas Love Field, San Antonio; Detroit Chicago Midway, Nashville, St. Louis.

Deals are available until December 17, with Thanksgiving blacked out by Labor Day weekend available (suggesting this year does – of course – remain a challenging one). Sale fares often exclude Fridays and Sundays.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Not sure when you posted this but I don’t see anything close to those prices for Houston to Detroit. You sure Detroit shouldn’t have – to indicate Detroit and Chicago, Nashville, and St Louis are priced as low as $39 each way? Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, and St Louis appear to be part of the Houston route at that price the way you have it written.

  2. I am hoping things like this are what get us to 1Million a day domestically b 4th of July.

    That’s still my prediction.
    Just flew up to Alaska today – this country is amazing, loving it

  3. Pittsburgh never gets the good Southwest sales, so {{{raspberry}}} to them.

    Wouldn’t matter for me, though. As an official old person, I’m not flying, or train-ing, or driving, anywhere until I can go places without running the risk of dying from the pandemic.

  4. I jumped all over this! Bought a r/t ticket today CLT-BWI for $82 in mid-October. Worst case travel isn’t practical and I lose $82 (although w SW I can apply to another ticket).

    No brainer IMHO – on the other hand I have no problem traveling anywhere right now. I take reasonable precautions but am not going to live my live hunkered down worrying about possibly getting the virus. Again, I take precautions and the vast majority of the accelerated cases are people who don’t take precautions, nursing homes, prisons, farm workers, etc. Basically I don’t think my demographic is materially more at risk than it was a couple of months ago. And I know I could “get it” from someone that is reckless but, guess what, I don’t get that damn close to them and I don’t have to worry about it. Worst case I get the virus – understand that 85-90% of cases, especially in otherwise healthy people, have no symptoms up to moderate symptoms which don’t require hospitalization (or usually even a trip to the doctor). I’ll take that risk, again with reasonable precautions, to live my life!

    People that are scared of their shadow won’t buy these cheap tickets but I assure you there are millions that will!

  5. @George

    How did you get around the 14 day Alaska quarantine rule?

    Did you present a negative covid test result or get one when you arrived?

Comments are closed.