$39 one-way fares on discounter AirTran; $25 one-way fares on Southwest.
Big discounts good through the much of the upcoming holiday season and into February.
Rivals like Delta are matching the fares on selective routes.
But that’s only half the story.
The rest is in the fees.
Kenneth Bernhardt is Professor of Marketing at Georgia State University.
He says the lowest discount fares are a myth.
“There wouldn’t be a $39 fare if there were no fees. The airlines could not afford to do that. They still have to make a profit. They can’t offer those fares without the fees,” he said.
The extra fees just add on and add on and it pretty much equals out to be a non-low fare,” says one passenger.
Check a bag and add $15.
Book your ticket on the phone–add another $15.
Pick a special seat in advance and add from $6 to $20.
Change your flight for another day—add another $75.
Your $39 fare has just skyrocketed to as much as $164.
“The advertising is working. Consumers do pay attention to the low fare. What they haven’t done as well and they need to do is add on the other things,” Bernhardt said.
But there are exceptions.
Said another passenger:
“Southwest, who I think is a great Airline, they aren’t charging anybody,” he said.
Southwest has added a fee for early boarding but not for checked bags.
There is a way to just pay that $39 fare and take advantage of it and not pay all the extra fees.
Leave the big bag behind and bring a carryon.
Check in for your flight online or when you get to the airport, use the kiosk and wait until 24 hours before the flight to pick your special seat and you wont have to pay the fee.
Something more and more $39 passengers are going to do.