Read fine print before booking that $25 flight


Low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines, the largest airline at Chicago’s Midway Airport, announced a fare sale yesterday of $25 for one-way flights of 375 miles or less – good news for travelers who meet the requirements.

As with many fare sales, there are a few caveats to keep in mind before you head straight for the Southwest Airlines Web site to book your flight out of town.

First, flights must be booked by 11:59 p.m. PST tomorrow (1:59 a.m. on October 30, in Chicago time) to take advantage of the low fares, so you have some quick decisions to make. Additionally, travel plans must fall between Dec. 2 and Dec. 16, or between Jan. 5 and Feb. 10, 2010, and the fares are not valid on Sundays – so don’t plan for any quick weekend trips.

Second, longer flights get incrementally more expensive: For travel between 375 and 549 miles, fares are $50 one-way. For travel between 550 and 999 miles, fares are $75 one-way. And for travel of more than 1,000 miles, fares are $100 one-way.

Last, remember that these prices all apply to one-way flights, and chances are you will need a roundtrip. Southwest and other airlines list fare sales using one-way prices because it sounds much cheaper. Your flight, then, will be closer to $50 (plus taxes and fees, which are not included in the fare price) for a roundtrip flight of 375 miles or less each way, not $25.

If you were already planning a trip, and your travel plans meet these requirements, buy your cheap flight and pat yourself on the back for your timely thriftiness. If the prices Southwest offers are tempting you to plan impromptu travel, however, make sure you calculate the cost of the entire trip – hotel room, rental car, food, etc. – before you make any impulse buys.