Anchorage travelers are spoiled. That's right. Spoiled rotten.
More than any other community in the Great Land, Anchorage enjoys unfettered access to nonstop flights and robust competition.
Aside from the occasional Alaska Airlines sale (including the weekly Club 49 offers), other Alaska communities miss out on the best deals.
All of that is changing, in large part because of Delta's new service to Juneau and Fairbanks from Seattle. In fact, Juneau and Fairbanks have some of the best available fares. Delta resumed seasonal service between Anchorage and Seattle last summer. This year, they're offering three flights per day. Let's review:
The battle for Seattle
Don't miss the fact that Delta's spool-up in Seattle is the reason travelers are enjoying some great fares. Between Fairbanks and Seattle, the lowest available fare is $244 round-trip on Delta. That's a super-lowball summertime price for the Golden Heart City. What's more, the rate is available on nonstop flights. In addition, Delta is offering Alaska residents two free checked bags. That's designed to offset the benefits of Alaska Airline's Club 49 benefits.
Juneau-Seattle flights also are selling for $244 round-trip on Delta and Alaska. That's half of what fares were before Delta starting flying there this week.
Both the Juneau and Fairbanks prices are less than the current Anchorage-Seattle flights. Earlier in the spring, Anchorage-Seattle prices dipped to $196 round-trip -- right before United decided to pull out of the market. That leaves JetBlue, Alaska and Delta. Still, fares are about half of what carriers charged before JetBlue started flying from Seattle last year.
S-O-S (South of Seattle)
The brouhaha between Alaska Airlines and Delta is yielding some great fares beyond Seattle, including:
• Anchorage-San Diego from $380 round-trip on Alaska Airlines (starting June 26).
• Anchorage-Los Angeles/LAX from $348 round-trip on Alaska Airlines (starting June 24.
• Anchorage-New York/JFK from $420 round-trip on Delta starting Sept. 8 (think back to school).
• Fairbanks-Los Angeles/LAX from $417 round-trip on Delta (starting July 1).
• Fairbanks-Portland from $398 round-trip on Alaska Airlines (starting June 24).
• Juneau-Los Angeles/LAX from $390 round-trip on Delta (starting June 28).
• Juneau-San Diego from $390 round-trip on Delta (starting June 24).
• Juneau-Salt Lake City from $385 round-trip on Delta (starting June 25).
Both Alaska and Delta are offering double mileage promotions to Seattle. Alaska Air travelers who are members of the Club 49 program automatically are registered. Delta flyers must register in advance of travel, but the bonus is limited to residents of Washington. Alaska also is offering double miles to several destinations beyond Seattle, including San Diego, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland and Vancouver, British Columbia. But you must register in advance.
The Frontier factor
Denver travelers cannot ignore Frontier Airlines. Rates from Anchorage to Denver start at more than $600 round-trip. But the real deal is on the Fairbanks-Denver nonstop: as low as $298 round-trip (leaving June 16, returning July 3).
So worldly, so welcome
Anchorage still has the lock on most international nonstop service. Only Condor offers weekly Fairbanks-Frankfurt service each Thursday for most of the summer. From Anchorage, Condor offers three weekly nonstops to Frankfurt. Icelandair offers twice-weekly Anchorage-Reykjavik service through mid-September. It's possible to dig deep and get tickets to Europe for between $900 and $1,100. But most midsummer tickets cost $1,200 or more. Still, compared with the competing service through the Lower 48, it's a bargain.
It's finally time to let Juneau and Fairbanks travelers cash in on great airfare deals. And if you're in Anchorage and you're sad the best deals are available elsewhere, quit whining. Let these fare wars spread the travel love around the state. It's a very good thing.
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 @alaskatravelgrm for breaking travel news.
By SCOTT McMURREN
For Alaska Dispatch