Latest round of quick airfare sales with limited dates, midweek travel, ends this week

By David Koenig, AP
Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Discount airlines start new round of short sales

DALLAS — Leading discount airlines have launched a new round of airfare sales for summer, but travelers may have to act fast and be flexible on dates to grab the best deals.

Sales from JetBlue Airways, Frontier Airlines and AirTran Airways end this week.

Frontier is touting fares as low as $98 roundtrip between Denver and West Coast cities including Long Beach, Calif., Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., and $78 to Albuquerque, N.M. Those prices cover trips through June 9 but don’t include taxes and fees, tickets must be bought at least 14 days before flying, and the cheapest seats are only available for travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

JetBlue says through June 16 it has $58 round trips in California, including Long Beach-San Francisco and Long Beach-Oakland. On the East Coast, it’s offering $78 round trips between New York and Washington, and between Boston and New York or Baltimore. Long-distance flights include $238 roundtrip between Los Angeles and Boston and between Long Beach and Washington.

However, dates are limited, there’s a 14-day advance-purchase requirement, there are blackout dates that vary by city, and the cheapest seats are offered only for travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

AirTran’s sale resembles one it ran earlier this month and covers travel through Nov. 16 — an unusually long span. The lowest prices apply for flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, but there are 28 blackout dates including around the Easter, Memorial Day and July 4 holidays. Tickets must be bought 10 days before travel.

AirTran’s lowest price is $88 roundtrip between Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., with other fares including $188 roundtrip between New York and San Francisco, and $258 between Atlanta and Los Angeles.

As usual with these types of fares, the airlines don’t say how many seats they’ll sell at these prices, and fare watchers say some airlines are already blocking out much of July, when they expect to command a premium for tickets.

JetBlue’s sale ends Wednesday; AirTran’s on Thursday; and Frontier’s on Friday.

Those sales fit this year’s unusual pattern — many midweek sales that often run just a day or two — says Tom Parsons, CEO of discount travel Web site The best prices are also for midweek travel, he says.

“There is some strategy this year,” Parsons says of shopping for deals. “Be flexible. If you can fly midweek, odds are better you’ll get one of the cheaper fares.”

Parsons also says it pays to buy tickets midweek, after competing airlines have matched the fare sales launched by discount carriers. Fares sometimes rise by $100 or more over the weekends, he says.

(This version CORRECTS airline sale ending Friday to Frontier.)

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