Some of the deals seem almost unbelievable.
Allegiant is offering $24 one-way fares to select destinations. Spirit has $26 fares, and Southwest is charging $49 one way.
While travel has plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic, so have many airlines’ ticket prices. Airlines are flooding the inboxes of potential travelers with the latest safety precautions and unusually valuable deals to entice more people to take vacations.
Aviation experts said airlines typically start advertising fare sales in late summer for the off-peak travel period in the fall, but many are testing the waters now to stimulate demand for leisure travelers.
“Given the majority of travel right now is leisure, there is also less risk to dilute potential business traveler revenue,” said Dallas-based aviation consultant Rhett Morgan. “Oil and airline fuel prices are still relatively low compared to historical levels,” which lowers the airlines’ break-even point.
Morgan said airlines are doing everything they can to build trust that flying is safe.
“I think there is motivation to get people to fly once on these low fares and relieve their anxieties in hope they will fly again and spread the word about their experience,” he said.
Travel numbers have been slowly climbing since bottoming out in April. Nationally, the number of people passing through TSA checkpoints cracked 700,000 on July 2, 3 and 5, peaking at 764,761 travelers on July 2.
That’s the highest number of travelers since 779,631 traveled on March 18, but still well below the 2.1 million who traveled on July 2 a year ago.
Locally, Pittsburgh is seeing a similar increase. July 2 and 3 both had more than 4,800 travelers pass through PIT’s checkpoints, the highest locally since March 15. Normally, the airport would see more than 15,000 travelers at this time of year.
Whether the uptick is due to low fares or just people looking to get away on vacation—or some combination of both—is unclear. Airlines have taken other steps to encourage bookings as well, such as waiving change fees if customers choose to forgo trips this summer and travel next year instead.
Nicole Anderson of Pittsburgh and her sister took advantage of low fares on Allegiant last week to fly out of PIT to visit their mother in Daytona Beach, Fla.
“The lower you see the price go, the faster you want to book a trip,” Anderson said.