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Some airfares are so cheap right now they might as well be free

Cheap flights

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  • Carriers like Frontier and Southwest Airlines are starting to roll out fare sales and deals offering cheap flights again, for travelers who are slowly beginning to take back to the skies amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The travel industry is still not back to its pre-coronavirus level, however.
  • Nevertheless, the US State Department on Thursday removed its general “do not travel” advisory, returning to its pre-coronavirus country-by-country system of travel warnings and guidance.

The coronavirus pandemic has been utterly brutal to the airline industry, which has shed tens of thousands of jobs and lost billions of dollars in revenue from consumers too scared to pack themselves inside a narrow plane cabin during the once-in-a-century health crisis facing the world right now. This is not to say that the industry is sitting back or has given up, resigned to the consequences of the near-existential crisis facing it. Carriers have taken steps that include implementing intense new cleaning procedures, mandated face masks and social distancing on flights (rules that vary somewhat by carrier), and have lined up support in Washington DC for what looks to be more federal funding to help cover payrolls for at least a little while longer.

Fare sales are also starting to be offered again, tempting fliers with the promise of cheap flights at a time when planes (hopefully) aren’t as full as they used to be. Frontier Airlines is the latest carrier offering just such a deal, and it’s quite a doozy — the low-cost carrier currently has as many as 1 million seats on sale starting at just $19 and up.

The fares are accessible to anyone subscribed to the carrier’s Discount Den, a yearly membership that costs $59.99 and includes benefits like access to Frontier’s lowest available fares not accessible to members of the general public. You can sign up for membership here, and the terms and conditions for this sale are as follows:

  • Tickets must be purchased by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, August 7. And your trip has to be before February 3, 2021.
  • Head here to check out the full list of available discounted routes.
  • The following blackout dates apply — September 4 and 7, 2020; November 19, 2020, through December 1, 2020; December 16, 2020, through January 4, 2021; and January 14 through 18, 2021. Additional blackouts to and from San Juan, Puerto Rico, apply from January 5 through 13, 2021, and a 7-day advance purchase requirement applies.

Deals like this come at an opportune time for the industry, which a new governmental pronouncement also gives at least a little bit of support to. In a press release on Thursday, the US State Department finally revoked the emergency “Level 4 — Do Not Travel” global advisory that was implemented back in mid-March. “With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the Department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice,” the department stated in the release. “We continue to recommend US citizens exercise caution when traveling abroad due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic.”

By the way, Frontier, it should be noted, is not the only airline offering deals and cheap flights right now to try to woo fliers back.

Southwest Airlines is also offering deals on fall fares that start at just $49. Head to the Dallas-based carrier’s website for more details, including the sale price on flights that interest you. Among the things you need to know:

  • The deadline to book is August 13 at 11:59 p.m. Central Time.
  • A 14-day advance purchase is required.
  • Seats, travel days, and markets limited. Blackout dates also apply.
  • Continental US travel is valid from August 11 through December 17, 2020. San Juan, Puerto Rico, travel is valid from August 18 through December 3, 2020, and international travel is valid August 18 through December 9, 2020.

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Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.