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Scott McMurren: Travelers benefit as Alaska, Delta duke it out over Seattle hub

In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal cast its gaze on a dust-up in Seattle between Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines. Journal reporter Susan Carey does a good job on the metrics between the two airlines at Sea-Tac airport, including a few of the initiatives to win passengers as Delta works to establish an international hub smack in the middle of Alaska's primary hub.

At the height of the summer travel season, the "Battle for Seattle" is yielding rich rewards for Alaska travelers, especially those in Fairbanks and Juneau.

In Anchorage, Delta has beefed up its Anchorage-Seattle schedule to three flights daily. Additionally, Delta offers nonstop service to Atlanta, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis from Anchorage. While Delta's Anchorage-Seattle flights put pressure on Alaska Airlines to keep fares low, rival JetBlue Airways is still the price leader on the route, with fares as low as $253 roundtrip, starting on Aug. 16. JetBlue drops the rate further to $196 roundtrip beginning Sept. 11.

In Fairbanks and Juneau, the single Delta flight each day has essentially cut the fare to Seattle in half. From Fairbanks, the nonstop flight to Seattle is selling for $122 each way between now and the last flight on Aug. 31. There's a two-week advance purchase to get the best fare.

It's the same price to fly from Juneau to Seattle: $122 each way, between now and Aug. 30. Between Juneau and Seattle, Alaska Airlines has matched the fare. In Fairbanks, it's come close.

Without Delta's competitive pressure, flights between Juneau and Seattle and between Fairbanks and Seattle would be twice as costly.

It's not just about the price, though. Alaska Airlines has developed a loyal following in the Last Frontier through its Club 49 program. The program is free to Alaska residents and allows for two checked bags, a 30 percent last-minute discount in the form of two one-way vouchers and access to weekly fare sales to select destinations.

And when Delta announced these new services to Seattle, Alaska Airlines announced it was offering double mileage from Anchorage , Juneau and Fairbanks to Seattle. If you were a Club 49 traveler, you automatically were enrolled.

Delta responded by offering two free checked bags for Alaska residents, a $25 voucher towards an "Economy Comfort" ticket and a matching 30 percent discount for a full coach ticket. Delta also is offering travelers who enroll in the program "instant" Silver Medallion status in the SkyMiles program for 60 days.

Delta also is offering double miles between Anchorage and Seattle -- but only for residents of Washington state.

Delta's increased service in Seattle is yielding great prices beyond the Pacific Northwest. Here are some examples:

• Juneau-Los Angeles/LAX from $390 roundtrip starting July 23

• Juneau-San Jose from $380 roundtrip starting July 23

• Juneau-Salt Lake City from $360 roundtrip starting July 23

• Fairbanks-San Diego from $414 roundtrip starting Aug. 4

• Fairbanks-San Francisco from $432 roundtrip starting July 23

• Fairbanks-Las Vegas from $462 roundtrip starting July 23

Delta's flights from Anchorage are year-round, so the airline is rolling out some additional deals in the fall:

• Anchorage-Boston from $384 roundtrip between Sept. 22 and Oct. 7

• Anchorage-New York City/JFK from $430 roundtrip between Sept. 16 and Oct. 9

• Anchorage-Austin, TX from $384 roundtrip between Sept. 16 and Oct. 9

Remember: airfares are subject to change without notice.

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 for breaking travel news.

 


By SCOTT MCMURREN
zoom@gci.net