AIRFARE ALERT: Southwest — $100 or less

This one-day fare sale will get you to a lot of Southwest’s destinations for a Benjamin. If the return fare is decent, it could be a bargain. IF…

It looks as if Southwest Airlines has come up with a fresh gimmick for a fare war, but don’t expect its competitors to match this one.

According to the folks at Smarter Travel, for today only, Southwest is putting 750 of its routes up for a most usual sale — nothing over $100.

And thanks to the federal government’s new rules for advertising airfares, that’s not $100 “plus taxes, surcharges and fees.” Nowadays, the airlines are required to quote you the entire fare up front.

So when Southwest says $100, that means $100, period.

There is still a catch, however. Three of them, in fact.

The first is that the sale applies to most, but not all of Southwest’s entire route system.

According to Southwest, it flies to 97 destinations, including the ones covered by AirTran, which Southwest now owns. According to ST, the sale applies to 77 cities. Whether the sale prices apply to AirTran as well as Southwest flights is not made clear.

If a sale doesn’t apply to a destination that interests you, it’s not of much use, and airlines tend to apply these sales on the routes on which they have the most trouble filling airplanes.

Still, according to ST, places like Los Angeles, Orlando, New Orleans and New York are included in this sale, so this could be worth something.

The second catch is summed up in two words: one-way.

Southwest will happily show you the total round-trip purchase price, but the bargain-basement fares apply in only one direction. If you actually want to come back, you’ll be paying more. It’s a standard airline sales gimmick.

The third, according to the ST crew: You can only use it for travel on four days in the month of December, including Christmas Day.

Even so, if you can get one of those rock-bottom fares to some place you actually want to go, and the return fare is decent enough, you can still come out ahead.

Again, this is a one-day deal, which means you have until 11:59 tonight. After that, this sale turns into a pumpkin.

Here’s the Southwest Web site. Good luck!

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