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Southwest Holding Huge Winter Fare Sale

The Southwest forum on FlyerTalk is buzzing about Southwest’s recently announced “Big Winter Sale.” Fares to most cities are a whopping 40% off which creates some incredible values in the Southwest route network. To take advantage of the sale, you must book by midnight on Thursday, October 11 and fly 11/28 – 12/12 or 1/7 – 2/14 excluding Sundays.

To book, simply go to the main Southwest home page and enter your city pairs. Before clicking Search, enter the promotional code BIGDEAL40 in the blank marked Promo Code.

Once you click through, you should see the discounts automatically applied on all the discount-eligible legs in the Wanna Get Away fare category. You should also see a message at the top of the booking page signifying that the web site has accepted the 40% off promotional code. If you don’t see the arrowed message below, you should start over to make sure the code was properly entered.


As always, there are some restrictions with this sale. The most important restrictions to note are that only roundtrip tickets are eligible and Sunday travel is excluded. My guess is the Sunday rule was added to dampen the amount of ultra-cheap weekend getaways that could be booked with the sale.

There are also city pair restrictions–any travel to/from Ft. Myers, as well as Austin-Orlando, Detroit-Phoenix, and Orlando-Phoenix–and blackout dates around both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Again, this is to prevent Southwest from losing money on flights that people would have booked anyway. They are clearly trying to drive new business with this quick winter fare sale.

Why is this a good deal?

Southwest already has a very solid domestic route network with low fares between many city pairs, plus they allow two free checked bags per passenger. When you take an additional 40% off these fares, good bargains turn into absolute steals. Weekday business travelers will certainly find some values, but leisure travelers will find incredible deals, especially on long weekends (Friday-Monday/Tuesday and Thursday-Monday/Tuesday).

For example, I was able to find ridiculously low weekend fares between Los Angeles and San Francisco using this discount code. I plugged in the code for Thursday, November 29 and returning on Monday, December 3rd (remember, no Sunday travel). Almost every leg had availability at $40. I was able to book LAX-SFO for a mere $79.20.

This short haul between Los Angeles and San Francisco was not the only good deal that was easy to find. I did a quick scan of some other city pairs and found prices that are hard to ignore. For instance, check out New York-La Guardia to Denver during prime ski season.

There are great transcontinental deals too. Look at this fare I was able to create between Baltimore and San Diego. These legs are nonstop as well! That’s one thing I love about Southwest. By eschewing the traditional hub model, they have some fantastic nonstop routes.

Not all the fares are the best deal, though, even with 40% off. Below is a Los Angeles-Las Vegas fare I pulled. It’s a reminder that you should check and other airline sites to make sure you are getting the best deal.

On the same dates, American is beating the fare. (Spirit appears to beat the fare but charges $35 for a carry on each way or $30 for a checked bag each way.)

Low fares are great.  Are there any other reasons I should jump on this?

If you aren’t already a Southwest Rapid Rewards member, now is the time to join. Not only will these low fares still earn full credit, but for a limited time, you will earn 1,000 Rapid Rewards points for signing up for the program. Check out my recent Forum Buzz post for details.  It’s getting hard to ignore Southwest as a great domestic carrier.

Is this sale good on Business Select fares?

No. The sale only extends to the Wanna Get Away fare type. Southwest is different from most airlines in that they simply divide their fares into three different types: Business Select, Anytime, and Wanna Get Away.

Since Southwest operates all-economy planes, the fare classes don’t correspond to your seat, just to the flexibility of the fare and the amenities like free drinks and early boarding. I only ever book Wanna Get Away fares because they are the cheapest.

What are the blackout dates that you mentioned above that are ineligible for this sale?

These 40% fares are only for travel from November 28 to December 12, 2012 and January 7 to February 14, 2013.

There are also certain city-specific blackout dates. Discounts do not apply to New Orleans between January 17 and January 21, 2013 and January 31 through February 14, 2013.

Las Vegas is restricted on most 2013 weekends (1/10-1/14, 1/17-1/21, and 1/31-2/14).

For the inauguration (January 17 through January 23, 2013), the three Washington D.C. airports–Baltimore (BWI), Washington Reagan-National (DCA), and Washington Dulles (IAD)–are also blacked out.

Can my family of four take advantage of this deal under one reservation?

Yes! Reservations can include up to eight people, so family bookings can certainly be eligible for this promotion.

Do both my outbound and return have to fall within the window to get the 40% discount?

Per the terms on Southwest’s website, “if one direction of the trip is outside the valid dates, only the portion of travel falling within sale dates will be discounted.” That means you’ll get the discount oneway. Here is an example of LAX-DEN roundtrip 11/27 – 11/30, which shows only the return has the 40% discount because only the return falls into the discounted date range.

If I find a great cheap fare with this sale, can I just book it and make changes to the itinerary later to better suit my schedule?

No. Again, per the terms, “changes made to the itinerary after purchase will eliminate qualifications for this promotion.” But you can always cancel a Southwest fare for a credit on Southwest in the full amount of the canceled fare.

Do I earn points for the flights booked?

Yes. Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program is a revenue-based points program. Wanna Get Away fares earn 6 points per dollar, which can later be redeemed for flights at a rate of 60 points per dollar. Flights booked during the 40% off promo earn the normal 6 points per dollar on the 40%-off base fare.


Not all great deals are for international first class travel. Southwest’s amazing 40% off winter fare sale is an incredible deal for most city pairs that Southwest serves. Though there are blackout dates and city restrictions, there are plenty of chances to extract great value from this 40% off promotion.

Book by tomorrow (10/11) for travel 11/28 – 12/12 and 1/7 – 2/14 on any day except Sunday for substantial savings.