Southwest Effect Goes International

UPDATE May 14: Southwest Airlines just announced the new routes FareCompare reported on earlier today and to further publicize the new destinations, the airline has launched an airfare sale:

Flights from Houston beginning Oct. 15, one-way prices:

  • Cancun from $149
  • Mexico City from $99
  • Puerto Vallarta from $149
  • San Jose del Cabo/Los Cabos, Mexico from $149
  • Belize City, Belize from $127
  • San Jose, Costa Rica from $174

Flights from Houston beginning Nov. 1, one-way prices:

  • Liberia/Guanacaste, Costa Rica from $174
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica from $199

The sale runs through May 24.

EARLIER:

Airfare analysts at FareCompare have noted an interesting (and very nice) trend for Houston travelers (and maybe others) who plan on flying to popular Central America and Mexico beach resorts this fall. With Southwest filing low inaugural fares to these destinations from Hobby Airport, the competition is dropping prices as well – in some cases, by more than 50%. Call it another example of the Southwest Effect.

The Southwest Effect

The Southwest Effect occurs when the popular airline offers cheap flights to publicize new destinations which in turn forces competitors to match the lower fares. It’s nothing new; this price-dropping activity was recently seen on Southwest’s new long-haul routes out of Dallas. Thanks at least in part to the Southwest Effect, the Texas city is now one of the nation’s cheapest destinations.

FareCompare analyst and CEO Rick Seaney calls the phenomenon by another name: “A perfect example of what good ol’ competition will do,” he said, adding, “Always nice to see.”

Price Drops of 50% Seen to Resort Cities

The latest Southwest Effect will be good news for fliers out of Houston  – and possibly those in other Southwest cities with non-stops to Houston. The airline has expanded operations at Houston’s Hobby Airport and will launch several new routes this fall to destinations including Belize City, the Mexico resort cities of Cabo and Cancun plus Costa Rica’s Liberia and San Jose.

FareCompare analysts recently looked at flights from Houston to San Jose in October and found prices had dropped more than 50%. Said Graeme Wallace, FareCompare’s CTO, “We now seeing competitors matching Southwest’s $296 round-trip fare for flights at the same departure time but otherwise ticket prices are around $700 round-trip.” Airlines can and do change prices without notice, though, so the price you find may be different.

By the way, Southwest treats its international routes the same as domestic when it comes to travelers who have to cancel or move itineraries around: There are no change fees.

Find the Best Deals

Southwest fares do not appear on any website besides its own, so check those fares but also compare prices with FareCompare. The reason is simple, says Rick Seaney: “No single airline always has the best price on every flight. If you don’t compare you may pay too much and sometimes, way too much.”

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Updated: May 15, 2015