Airlines

The Southwest Sale: That don’t impress me much!

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So first thing I notice this morning is my inbox, Facebook, and Twitter updates are inundated with posts and statuses talking about the current Southwest Airlines sale going on for three days. We have a wedding to go to over Labor Day weekend so I looked into the flights for us.  The wedding is on Sunday, so our plan is to arrive on Saturday and leave on Monday.

Southwest Sale

For those specific days we can get round-trip flights on Southwest for $230 a person ($110 on the flight to Atlanta and $120 for the return flight). The itinerary on the way out isn’t bad, we’d leave at 8:30 am, change planes in Austin, then arrive at 1:50pm. However, on the return flight our two options at the lowest price both leave at 7am. The wedding is in the evening with an even later reception on Sunday so I don’t see us being too thrilled about getting only 3-4 hours sleep before we have to head to the airport the next morning.

As I always do when I price compare with Southwest, I looked at Spirit airlines.  The price each way was $98.89. Subtracting the “processing fee” since I would purchase these tickets over the phone or in person, the cost for us would be $81.90 each way. The flight out leaves DFW at 7:30 am and arrives Atlanta at 10:30 am.  A little early, but not a deal-breaker, especially since it’s only an hour earlier than the Southwest flight and leaves from the airport that is closer to our house. My preference would be to leave in the early afternoon on Monday, but the flight available that day on Spirit leaves around 5:30 pm and arrives at DFW around 7pm. But that’s still preferable (to me) than a 7am flight.

The price difference for one person (assuming one checked bag on Spirit) is pretty negligible (less than $7). If a person purchased the tickets online the Southwest ticket is cheaper than the Spirit ticket (again, assuming one checked bag). So why doesn’t the Southwest deal impress me?

First we’re flying with four people, not one. Second, we would have only one checked bag for the four of us for a weekend. Since I’m a $9 club member it costs us only $20 each way for the bag instead of the standard fee of $30 each way. If we bought the four tickets on Southwest at that price it would cost us $920. For the four tickets on Spirit, not buying them online (saving the $16.99 processing fee times eight, $135.92), and only paying $20 each way for a single checked bag our total cost comes to $695.20. That comes to a savings of almost $225. Not to mention a much more reasonable flight time for our return home.

$9_Fare_Club_Spirit

Now, even with four people, if someone was absolutely determined to buy the Spirit tickets online the savings would only be $89.08. Assuming they’re also not a $9 club member the savings is now only $69.08. But that’s why, when buying tickets for several people for several legs of a flight not buying tickets online can be the real money-saver with Spirit. The slight inconvenience of not buying our tickets online is worth it to me for the money we can save. Again, I can see how it wouldn’t be for only one person, but this is another example of you have to plan differently when you’re reserving flights for families or groups on a budget than planning a trip for just one or two people.

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Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.

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Tiff's first big vacation was a Caribbean cruise when she was six. She first started getting interested in deals when her husband showed her the tricks to getting bought off your flights back in the late 90s. She started flying nonrev when they got married; the first unusual nonrev she did was in '05 when her family flew through San Juan to get to Dallas from Philly. They have two boys, ages 11 and 7, who she usually drags along on their travels and hopes they will grow up to love traveling as much as she does.

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