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Southwest's new Ding fares: Worth the download?

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Photo: Southwest Airlines
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on April 7, 2005. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, Jessica Labrencis, Southwest.

When Southwest's new low-fare alert system, Ding, debuted in early March, the airline said that its special fares would save travelers even more money than its already-discounted Internet specials. To put that claim to the test, we've compared five Ding sale alerts with Southwest's regular fares to see if Ding is worth downloading onto your computer.

Prices

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Ding fares range from $30 to more than $100. In our spot check of more than 30 different routes, we found savings that ranged from as little as $5 to as much as $75. However, in most cases the Ding prices were about $9 less than Southwest's lowest-priced Internet one-way specials.

Because you can expect Southwest to offer some of the lowest prices on the routes it flies, the Ding fares are an even better deal than you'll find on most other airlines. And, while $5 off a one-way fare might not seem like a good discount, $10 off a round-trip fare starts to sound better.

Availability

Although its prices are generally lower, we had difficulty finding availability for some Ding fares. The fares we checked were for travel in June, July, and August, but we had trouble finding availability in June (and, when Ding fares were sold out, Southwest's lowest regular fares were also unavailable). However, we were able to find the advertised prices for the busy Fourth of July weekend, so availability will vary by route.

Purchasing

The Ding fares have a short booking window of several hours, and require a 14-day advance purchase. Unlike its regular sale fares, Southwest's Ding fares cannot be combined with any of its non-Ding fares. To take advantage of the fares, you'll want to be near a computer often—if you can't monitor the fares, you're likely to miss out on some alerts.

In our opinion, Ding is worth the download because it can potentially cut costs on airfare even more than Southwest's regular fares. However, one drawback to the Ding system is that it is only compatible with Windows 98SE, Windows ME, and Windows XP operating systems. Customers using earlier versions of Windows, or Macintosh computers, cannot receive the Ding alerts at this time.

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