Southwest Website Jammed as $49 Airfares Spur Booking Surge

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Demand for one-way fares as low as $49 during a three-day sale overwhelmed Southwest Airlines Co.’s website, making it impossible to book a trip.

“We currently are working to resolve the issue,” Southwest told complaining consumers Wednesday on Twitter.com. “We hope to have it back up soon.”

Customers who followed Southwest’s advice to contact the airline by phone spent an average of 30 to 60 minutes on hold, although times varied “significantly,” said Brandy King, a spokeswoman. She said she couldn’t confirm travelers’ messages on the airline’s Twitter page of related difficulties with the carrier’s mobile application and flight check-ins.

U.S. airlines often introduce fare sales in the fall, after the end of the busy summer travel season. Southwest’s sale began Tuesday and ends at 11:59 p.m. Thursday in the time zone of the originating city. The discounted tickets are available on select routes for travel Aug. 24 through Dec. 16.

“Our teams are continuing to work on identifying the functions impacted by the high customer demand,” King said by e-mail. She said the Dallas-based airline began “closely monitoring” reports of the website problems around midday.

At 6:30 p.m. Dallas time, Southwest’s home page still showed a message saying customers “may experience difficulty” in trying to book travel.

Southwest is offering fares as low as $49 one way nonstop between cities including Las Vegas and Los Angeles and Baltimore/Washington and Boston. Dallas to Washington and Atlanta to New York are on sale for $99 each way.

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