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McMurren on travel: As summer rolls on, low airfares fade away for Alaskans

Where have all the low airfares gone? As the solstice passes and the sun begins to weaken in Alaska, it appears all the best fares are fading as well, at least from Anchorage.

In truth, some fares are still low, particularly between Anchorage and Seattle. But fares from Fairbanks and Juneau to Seattle are lower. All summer long, Delta is keeping the fare at $244 round-trip from either city. From Anchorage, the rates during July are between $300 and $400 round-trip.

Anchorage travelers will have to wait until Aug. 21 for the lower fares, when JetBlue drops the Anchorage-Seattle rate back down to $224 round-trip. Then, between Sept. 11 and Sept. 27, the fare sinks to $196 round-trip on JetBlue.

Airfares from Anchorage to southern California also are creeping up during July. From Anchorage to Los Angeles/LAX, the lowest fares are between $475 and $600 round-trip. That all changes in August, when JetBlue drops the Anchorage-Long Beach fare to $265 roundtrip on their daily nonstop flight between Aug. 21 and 28. Alaska Airlines is offering a $286 round-trip, nonstop fare between Aug. 25 and Sept. 2.

Alaska Airlines also offers good deals to other southern California destinations starting in August. Between Anchorage and Orange County, the rate dips to $360 round-trip starting Aug. 8. Between Anchorage and San Diego, Alaska offers a $380 round-trip airfare starting Aug. 5.

If you're feeling lucky, hop aboard Alaska's nonstop between Anchorage and Las Vegas. Starting Aug. 8, the airline is selling tickets for as little as $363 round-trip. Nonstops are great -- but these are red-eye flights in both directions. Flight 170 leaves Anchorage at 11:35 p.m., arriving bright and early at 5:45 a.m. The return flight (AS165) leaves Las Vegas at 11:55 p.m., arriving in Anchorage at 4:30 a.m.

Flights to New York from Anchorage are priced between $580 and $700 through the end of August. But on Sept. 14, the fare drops to $430 round-trip. If you want to fly to LaGuardia Airport, take United. If you want to fly to JFK, take Delta. The good fares last through Oct. 9.

The price drop is even more precipitous for flights from Anchorage to Boston. Depending on the day, either Delta or United is offering fares from Anchorage as low as $383 round-trip for travel between Sept. 14 and Oct. 7.

It's important to note that fares change without notice. All the time, actually. Also, most of the good fares require a two- to three-week advance purchase.

In last week's article, I missed a crucial piece of information while dissecting the latest airfare/mileage deals from Alaska Airlines. The fares from Anchorage, Fairbanks and other Alaska communities to Africa and the Maldives are still pretty good. But my calculations on the elite qualifying miles you can earn are way off. For example, the miles between Anchorage and Johannesburg really do add up to 25,838 round-trip. However, only about half of the miles you fly on Emirates (11,390 round-trip) will count toward your MVP status on Alaska Airlines .

That's still a gob of miles -- but it is not the "double mileage" as promoted by Alaska Airlines. Rather, it's "double-the-miles-you-normally-would-accrue."

Back to the Anchorage-Johannesburg example, you still would earn double miles on the Anchorage-Seattle segment with Alaska Airlines, or 5,760 miles. Then, with the promotional bonus on Emirates, you would earn 22,780 miles. That's a total of 28,540. Of those miles, 14,270 miles are "elite qualifying miles" toward your MVP status on Alaska.

Accordingly, these fares do not yield the "instant MVP status" that I claimed. A big thank you goes to several readers who alerted me to these terms and conditions after shopping for their own tickets. I apologize for the oversight.

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
zoom@gci.net