Discount airlines roll out annual January fare sales


It’s time for the after Christmas airfare sale! Here we are at the beginning of January, and I’m already talking to you about taking a trip as far ahead as late spring.

Like clockwork, the nation’s discount airlines start off every new year with ultra-cheap airfares that they make available, depending on the airline, for travel into March or into late May. And then the full fare airlines (American, Continental, Delta, United and US Airways) have no choice but to follow along with what the discounters do in the markets where they compete head-to-head.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the price parameters that the discounters are offering:

  • Frontier has fares from $58 roundtrip (RT) to $358 RT, depending on location, for travel into mid March.
  • JetBlue has fares from $138 RT – $238 RT, depending on location.
  • Airtran has fares from $98 RT to $318 RT, depending on location, for travel into late May.
  • Southwest’s sale extends until late May. Unfortunately, their pricing structure is a bit harder to explain.

I know it’s odd to talk about buying tickets now for springtime. But the reason you buy now is that many people have exhausted their funds on Christmas with gift giving and travel expenses so they can’t afford travel right now. If you do have money available, that means the airlines are catering to you, making this is great time to buy travel. (By the way, having a very flexible travel date in mind is probably the single best thing you can do to snag a deal. See my booking and planning guide below for more tips.)

Hotels are the other segment of travel that will be a deal virtually this entire year, with a few exceptions (notably New York City.) The hotel market did a bit better in the second half of 2010 than it had through the rest of the Great recession. But now in 2011, hoteliers will once again have to be very “promotional,” which is another word for discounts!  

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