Winter fares creating opportunities for bargain-hunting travelers

Staff WriterJanuary 9, 2014 

Bargain air fares are back at Sea-Tac Airport after several years' absence as airlines fight for market share on key routes during the slow-traffic winter routes.

Those fares are as low as $118 roundtrip to Denver and San Jose, $237 roundtrip to Boston and $206 return to Charlotte.

Unlike airline fares a decade ago when air carriers cut air fares across the board, airlines are being much more selective with this new round of discounts, limiting the lowest fares to midweek departures and to just one or two flights a day.

That means that bargain-seekers will have to act quickly when they're alerted to a new bargain fare before the cheap seats are all bought out.

As the lowest price "buckets" of seats are purchased, the lowest fares move to the next group of fares priced somewhat higher.

Just Thursday, some fares to Oakland were initially available for as little as $128 roundtrip, but within a few hours the least expensive seats to that Bay Area city had risen to $148.

Airlines periodically adjust their fares as demand ebbs and flows, so lower fares may become available again if the higher price fares fail to sell out.

In recent years, most airlines have abandoned the big "fare sale" promotion because they found their low fares were quickly matched by competitors, yielding less revenue for everyone in the fare war.

The new limited fare war formats allow airlines to fill less popular flights and to advertise attractive fares without sacrificing much money on the bottom line.

The fare-cutting has been triggered in part by new competition on routes from Sea-Tac on popular routes on the West Coast and to East Coast tourist and business destinations.

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