Southwest Airlines launched a month-long fare sale Tuesday to jump start summer travel, with one-way fares from $49 to $99.
The nation’s largest domestic carrier said it will also offer double frequent flyer points to travelers who buy tickets during the sale, which covers travel between May 26 and Aug. 31.
The promotion comes as airlines are struggling to fill most flights amid the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. airlines are carrying about 23 passengers per flight, on average, compared with 85 to 100 early this year before the coronavirus crisis began and a slew of stay-at-home orders and government restrictions decimated demand for air travel.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said last month that the airline will have to be “drastically smaller” if passengers don’t return soon.
Southwest reacts to COVID-19: Airline slashes flights in half, parks hundreds of planes
“We’re all eager to move again in a new chapter that feels more familiar, and Southwest is giving customers the freedom to dream and the inspiration to confidently recapture the magic of travel,” Ryan Green, Southwest’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a statement.
The fare sale excludes the usually busy Memorial Day weekend summer travel kickoff and Labor Day weekend last hurrahs. Memorial Day is May 25 this year, Labor Day, Sept. 7.
There is fine print to the fare sale, of course. Friday and Sunday travel is excluded, ruling out traditional weekend getaways. Flights to and from popular destinations, including Las Vegas and Florida, are further restricted. Hawaii flights are excluded.
Looking for the lowest deals on your favorite routes? Use Southwest’s low fare calendar.
Southwest typically offers two major fare sales a year, in October and June, but neither covers traditional summer travel. The sales are so popular they have overwhelmed the airline’s website.
With many states still under stay-at-home orders and the CDC still advising only essential travel, it remains to be seen whether this sale will prompt travelers to book summer trips. However, Spirit Airlines executives last week said they have been able to lure passengers with cheap fares.
Southwest, like all airlines, said it is taking several steps to protect travelers’ health in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, with increased cleaning, reduced in flight service, modified boarding and deplaning and not booking flights to full capacity in a bid to space out passengers. On Monday, the airline began requiring passengers to wear masks.
Kelly said he thinks travelers should also have their temperatures taken at the Transportation Security Administration security checkpoints, but no policies have been announced. Absent a federal directive, Frontier Airlines last week said it will check passengers’ temperatures at the gate beginning June 1.
Passenger temperature checks: Frontier becomes first U.S. airline to require them
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Southwest launches summer travel fare sale amid pandemic