On this Saturday afternoon, here's my latest low-airfare roundup. It's important to note that fares change all the time. And I did a low fare all-call last week -- and almost all the rates have changed since then. So if you see a rate below that appeals to you, you're wise to pounce on it. POUNCE, I say!
Now, a note on methodology: Sometimes you have to dig deep to find the best rates. That's because many of them are not meant for public consumption. Rather, they are "signals" between airlines to indicate displeasure/anger/hate/malice. So, when airlines are r-e-a-l-l-y mad at each other, the traveler wins. Trust me on this. Here are some of my secret weapons:
Good travel agent: After your eyes glaze over with the options, the restrictions, the layovers and the other endless details of today’s air fares, you can opt to pay someone to sort it out. Your travel agent can be a valuable resource. My travel agency charges $38 per ticket -- which is about the going rate. Think about it: A travel agent has the souped-up computers to quickly analyze the flights, the routes, the rates and the restrictions. Oh, and they work on this stuff all day. It's your call.
Google’s ITA Software Matrix: I especially like the “calendar” function so I can scan a month’s worth of fares. You can’t purchase tickets on this site, though they do offer an option to send the detailed fare calculation via email, which you can forward to your travel agent.
Fare Compare’s deal map: Fare Compare’s map has a moderate amount of phantom fares (good fares but no seats) in the display. You just have to sift through that junk. And they miss some of the best deals. But on average, it’s an OK tool.
Airline websites: AlaskaAir.com has a handy “calendar” search. I also check Delta.com, USAirways.com, AA.com, FlyFrontier.com, JetBlue.com, FlyEra.com, United.com, Condor.com, Icelandair.com and VirginAmerica.com.
There are other tools I use, but I have to light candles and get out the Ouija board. Sometimes I just stare at the screen and the fares change before my very eyes. I am not making this up. Well, OK, I don’t use a Ouija board. I can barely spell it.
The low-down: I worked on these fares extensively. Each listing is followed by notes detailing actual dates when the fares are available. Happy hunting!
1. Juneau-Montreal: This awesome $445 roundtrip rate is available the first two weeks in May, with a forced overnight in Chicago on the outbound segment. On American Airlines, although the Juneau-Seattle portion is Alaska Airlines.
2. Juneau-Ottawa: Also available only in the first two weeks in May, the roundtrip rate is just $438 roundtrip on American. There is a long layover in Chicago (7:20).
There's just one deal right now worth bragging about. When Frontier Airlines starts on May 17, they offer a $367 roundtrip nonstop flight to Denver. AWESOME!
This is a lengthy rollout. Let's start with the international rates:
1. Anchorage-Frankfurt on Condor. The cheapest ticket I found was May 14-25 for $879 roundtrip.
2. Anchorage-Reykjavik on Icelandair. Heavens--this is a bargain: as low as $583 roundtrip on the inaugural flight May 16, returning May 29.
3. Anchorage-Helsinki on Icelandair: $1,002 roundtrip on Icelandair, traveling May 20-26.
4. Anchorage-Oslo on Icelandair: $917 roundtrip on Icelandair, traveling May 23-June 5.
5. Anchorage-London: $1,088 roundtrip on Icelandair, traveling May 23-June 5.
And now today's domestic line-up:
1. Anchorage-Honolulu on Alaska Airlines: $436 roundtrip for travel between April 18 and May 19. There are lots of seats on lots of dates.
2. Anchorage-Seattle on JetBlue, United and Alaska: $276 roundtrip starting May 17 (the date of JetBlue's first flight of the season). This is a great summer for travel to Seattle--since fares will be c-h-e-a-p between May 17 and mid-October!!
3. Anchorage-Denver on Frontier Airlines: $326 roundtrip (nonstop), traveling May 17-21.
4. Anchorage-Los Angeles International (LAX) on Alaska Airlines: $338 roundtrip traveling April 11-19.
5. Anchorage-Orange County (SNA) on Delta: $360 roundtrip starting Apr. 8. Lots of dates. Lots of seats.
6. Anchorage-Long Beach (LGB) on USAirways: $350 roundtrip starting Apr. 8. Long layover in Phoenix (5:45 on the outbound, 11:41 on the return). On May 17, JetBlue starts nonstop service for $338 roundtrip.
7. Anchorage-Sacramento on JetBlue: $404 roundtrip May 18-21.
8. Anchorage-Oakland on Delta: $352 roundtrip May 29-June 3.
9. Anchorage-Austin, TX on two airlines. Sometimes it pays to cobble together great one-way fares. Fly out on American on May 17, returning on JetBlue on May 23. The rate? Just $376 roundtrip. AWESOME.
10. Anchorage-Phoenix on United: $456 roundtrip for flights starting April 1. There are plenty of seats on many dates in both April and May.
11. Anchorage-Las Vegas on Delta: $348 roundtrip May 27-June 3.
12. Anchorage-St. Louis on Delta: $350 roundtrip starting April 1. There are plenty of seats on lots of dates.
13. Anchorage-Dallas on Alaska and American. Here's another great rate that's really a fare to L.A. for $349. But the rules allow for a free stop in Dallas. So take it. Fly out on ALaska's nonstop to LAX on May 2, connecting on American to Dallas. Then, take your free stop in Dallas. On May 10, return nonstop to Anchorage on American's flight. AWESOME!
14. Anchorage-Chicago on Alaska: $480 roundtrip for flights between April 9 and May 14.
15. Anchorage-New York on American: $358 roundtrip June 2-9.
16. Anchorage-Boston on American: $348 roundtrip June 3-11.
17. Anchorage-Charlotte, NC on United: $459 roundtrip May 6-14.
Air fares are subject to change without notice and may not be available on all flights. In fact, I drilled down to find the very best rates on specific days. So, the good rates may be available on different dates -- but they may not be. And they may be available for purchase tomorrow -- but they may not be. It's just one of those things, sort of like the stairwells at Hogwarts.
Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based travel marketing consultant who has lived in Alaska for three decades, spending much of that time traveling the far-flung corners of the state. Visit his website at www.alaskatravelgram.com. And follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/alaskatravelgrm for breaking updates.