More sub-$100 airfares? Rivals match Southwest’s sale prices

American, Delta and United were among rivals selectively matching Southwest’s sale fares as of Wednesday morning.

Southwest rolled out its big 72-hour sale on Tuesday, dropping fares to less than $100 on dozens of its shortest routes. By Wednesday Now, many of Southwest’s rivals have matched those fares – though not across the board.

Among the routes where at least one of Southwest’s rivals were matching its sub-$100 round-trip sale fares as of Wednesday morning were Los Angeles-San Francisco; Houston-Dallas; Washington-Providence; Minneapolis-Chicago and San Francisco-Portland, Ore.

It’s common in the airline industry for carriers to match sales on rival carriers. But the broad scope of Southwest’s broad twice-a-year sales make this one an interesting one to watch.

Southwest’s sale debuted early Tuesday morning, dropping fares to as low as $90 on short routes and to as low as $258 on some cross-country routes. By afternoon, some of Southwest’s rivals had begun to match those fares on some – but not all – routes.

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Most big airlines – including American, Delta, United, Alaska and JetBlue – had discounted fares on certain routes that overlapped with those included in Southwest’s sale.

Still, bargain seekers looking for low fares on Southwest’s rivals should know that the availability of the matching prices varied significantly. On some routes, rivals matched widely on many flights and across a broad number of days. On other routes, only some rivals matched fares – and some only on certain days and flights. Between certain other city-pairs, rivals appear not to try to match Southwest at all.

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Scroll down for a sampling of routes were rivals appeared to be matching Southwest’s fares:

Los Angeles-San Francisco

Southwest’s sale fare: $98

Matching: American, Delta and United were offering similar or lower fares on at least some flights and days during Southwest’s sale fare window (book by June 8, fly Aug. 22 trough Dec. 13, with some Labor Day and Thanksgiving blackout dates). Delta and United’s cheapest fares were from their “basic economy” offerings. Alaska Airlines and merger partner Virgin America were selling flights for a bit more ($114 round trip). JetBlue was selling $122 round-trip fares for its flights between Long Beach and San Francisco.

Houston-Dallas

Southwest’s sale fare: $97

Matching: American and United were offering similar or lower fares on at least some flights and days during Southwest’s sale fare window. United’s cheapest fares were from its “basic economy” offerings, though the cheapest fares were not offered on all days.

Chicago-Minneapolis/St. Paul

Southwest’s sale fare: $91

Matching: American and United were offering similar or lower fares on at least some flights and days during Southwest’s sale fare window. United’s cheapest fares were from their “basic economy” offerings, and its $91 fares had spotty availability. Delta was not matching on its non-stop flights, but it was still offering a relatively low “basic economy” are of about $147 round trip.

Baltimore-Boston

Southwest’s sale fare: $98

Matching: JetBlue was offering similar or lower fares during Southwest’s sale fare window. American and United were not matching those fares on their non-stop Boston flights from their respective nearby hubs of Washington Reagan National and Washington Dulles. American’s fares from DCA were going for $163 while United’s from IAD were going for $170 in “basic economy.”

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Portland, Ore.-San Francisco

Southwest’s sale fare: $98

Matching: Alaska Air and merger partner Virgin America were offering similar or lower fares on at least some flights and days during Southwest’s sale fare window. United, which also flies the route non-stop, did not appear to be matching the sale fares.

Source: Fare data came from a spot-check of Kayak.com and airline websites for flights during a period stretching from Oct. 29 through Nov. 10.

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