Let’s get the New Year off to a good start with a low-fare roundup. All of our friends in the airline world are back at their stations -- and faced with the task of filling up those vacant seats on their planes. Each company has its own bag of tricks, including bonus miles and fare sales. Last week, one regional airline even changed its name: Era Alaska became Ravn Alaska.
Right now, there are two distinct categories of fare sales: either buy right now, or after May 17. In mid-May, discount carrier JetBlue spools up seasonal service with nonstop flights from Anchorage to both Seattle and Long Beach. And even though the launch is more than four months away, battle lines are already being drawn.
First, here are some of the fares I love for travel right now. Two great fares to the East Coast that were there Monday morning were already gone by afternoon, so act fast. Almost all of the rates require a 14-day advance purchase -- so plan accordingly.
• Anchorage-San Diego for $378 roundtrip on USAirways. You can’t beat this rate to Southern California -- it’s even cheaper than Alaska’s rate to Portland. The trick is to pick your flights carefully on the return. Otherwise, you could end up with a long layover in Phoenix. Honestly, for just a couple of bucks, you can get much better connections on Delta -- $380 roundtrip. Plus, Alaska Air mileage junkies will earn miles on the Delta flights.
• Anchorage-Los Angeles/LAX for $378 roundtrip on USAirways. Again, pick your return flights carefully when connecting through Phoenix. These fares are available all winter long.
• Anchorage-Portland for $380 roundtrip on Alaska Airlines. This is a nonstop flight. It’s available through the end of February.
• Anchorage-Las Vegas for $396 roundtrip on Alaska Airlines. I love this deal. It’s a nonstop flight -- and it’s not a red-eye! Your good luck begins before you even arrive.
• Anchorage-Phoenix for $416 roundtrip. Alaska Airlines initiated nonstop service on this route last month -- and the fare immediately dropped by more than $200. USAir previously had a monopoly on the nonstop flight. Now both carriers are offering the $416 roundtrip fare. The big difference is that Alaska Air’s flight is during the daytime and USAir’s is an all-nighter. Pick one.
Now let’s review some of the great summertime airfares now available:
• Anchorage-New York/JFK for $404 roundtrip on Delta. These deals start on May 15 and run through July 11. After that the fare drifts up a bit to $420 roundtrip. That’s still a great deal all the way to New York.
• Anchorage-Boston for $378 roundtrip on Delta. There are not as many available seats as there are to New York -- but United also has some great fares, from $396 roundtrip. The best fares are available between May 17 and June 11.
• Anchorage-Seattle for $242 roundtrip on JetBlue. The deals start rolling out on May 16. Alaska and United have also matched the rate. But don’t be fooled -- without JetBlue in the market, the rate would be much higher. That’s a fact.
• Anchorage-Long Beach for $296 roundtrip on JetBlue. This is a great price on a nonstop flight, even though it’s a red-eye. Watch for JetBlue’s flight to put downward pressure on flights to nearby LAX, Orange County and Burbank.
• Fairbanks-Denver for $348 roundtrip on Frontier Airlines. This nonstop flight is priced nicely for the last two weeks of May. The nonstop from Anchorage is a little more -- $416 roundtrip.
As usual, these fares change like the wind -- and boy, is it windy outside. So if you see a price you like, don’t dawdle.
If you're looking for a fare, I like Google’s ITA Matrix Airfare search tool. I also use the respective airline websites to verify availability.
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 or follow him on Twitter for breaking travel news.