One of the nation's major discount airlines announced Wednesday it will begin seasonal nonstop flights to Anchorage next year.
JetBlue Airways said that it will fly a single daily flight between Anchorage and Long Beach, Calif., from May 26 to Sept. 6.
It looks like tickets south are selling quickly -- by the end of the day Wednesday, no seats were available on the 26th, according to the company's website.
To entice customers, the New York-based airline is offering a round-trip rate of $274, including fees, to fliers who buy their tickets by Friday evening. That fare is higher on some days of the week.
It didn't take long for other air carriers to respond to JetBlue's cheap offer.
By Wednesday afternoon, Alaska Airlines had slashed its prices for round-trip, one-stop travel to Long Beach, starting May 26, to $295 including fees. Delta Airlines was offering one-stop flights for $309.
Want to fly to Los Angeles instead of Long Beach? Alaska Airlines is charging $649 including fees, starting May 26.
JetBlue's introductory fare is one of the cheapest tickets to the Lower 48 that Anchorage has seen in years. This summer, for example, one of the cheapest fares to the Lower 48 was $336 between Anchorage and Denver, according to Anchorage travel analyst Scott McMurren.
Based on Wednesday's prices, it would cost about $170 more to fly round-trip between Anchorage and Seattle on Alaska Airlines in late May than it would to fly between Anchorage and Long Beach via Seattle on the same airline.
No other airline is competing with Alaska Airlines on its high price for flights between Anchorage and Seattle -- at least not for now, McMurren said.
JetBlue's decision shows the company's positive impression of Alaska as a tourist destination, said John Parrott, manager of the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
Several airlines brought new flights to Anchorage last year, and Parrott said he knows of "a few more airlines" that have been considering coming to Anchorage, too. Last year, the airport got 30,000 more summer travelers than it did the previous year, Parrott said.
A JetBlue executive said in a press release that Anchorage is in "high demand" for California residents during the peak summer travel months. Long Beach is a hub airport for the airline, serving travelers from the Los Angeles area and Orange County.
The company quipped on its blog Wednesday that its California customers should "be sure to send us pictures of your visit, especially if you can see Russia from your hotel room."
What do Alaska tourists get out of a trip to Long Beach-- other than one of the cheapest fares available to the Lower 48?
Well, there's Disneyland. Cruise ships also leave from nearby San Pedro to Mexican coastal cities, according to McMurren.
From the Long Beach airport, it's a 20-mile drive to Disneyland or a 14-mile drive to the cruise dock in San Pedro.
Find Elizabeth Bluemink online at adn.com/contact/ebluemink or call 257-4317.