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Gyrating airfares from Anchorage proof-positive that bargains must be bought fast

Scott McMurren

UPDATED: If you ever need proof that air fares change quickly, witness Tuesday's gyrations. The fares have gone up and down all day long. Here's a rundown of where they are as of 6:15 p.m., Oct. 23. Of course, that's subject to change: You can count on that.

Anchorage-Dallas: In November, December and January, you still can nab seats for as little as $439 roundtrip on United. The lowest available fare drops to $394 roundtrip in mid-May, and there are a couple of dates in June available for $397 roundtrip on United.

Anchorage-Salt Lake City: Fly between Dec. 4 and Dec. 11, 2012 for as little as $360 roundtrip on United. After that, the fare goes up to around $511. Still cheaper than Delta's nonstop, but the fare isn't worth writing home about.

Anchorage-Cincinnati: There are a few dates in May where the fare is hovering at $492 roundtrip on United. In December and January, the lowest available rate is $537 roundtrip.

Anchorage-Minneapolis: In mid-May, you can fly United for $494 roundtrip. Other dates? It's all north of $500 now.

Anchorage-Atlanta/Detroit/Memphis: Laughable. Pick another city. The cheap rates were wonderful while they lasted -- but they're gone now.

PRO TIP: Follow the Twitter feed. It's the early-warning system for air fare sales. And Tuesday's up-down-up-down changes are living, breathing proof that every minute counts.

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ORIGINAL STORY:

Travelers, are you ready for this week's low-fare roundup? I hope you're prepared to take notes, because there's a real goat rodeo going on in the airline business, especially for cheap flights to and from Anchorage, Alaska. Bargain hunters should be prepared to dig deep and get their hands dirty to grab a really good deal. But they're out there. I promise.

First, it's important to remember the first rule of air fare bargain hunting: "When the airlines are mad at each other, the traveler wins." I'm not sure why United is mad at Delta this morning … but there are some great fares out there. Keep in mind these fares change like the wind. And as soon as the airline ceases to be mad-as-heck, well, the fares go back up, up, up.

Let's review:

Anchorage-Minneapolis: This is one of our favorite "fortress hubs" for Delta Air Lines. Alaska Airlines is offering a good PFD airfare of $517 roundtrip. But United is offering a $453 roundtrip fare in mid-May 2013, along with a $497 roundtrip fare on select dates between December-April.

Anchorage-Atlanta: This is a high-fare destination, so United's $454 roundtrip fare is especially appealing. Again, the best prices are for mid-May 2013 departures. In late November and early December, United offers rates as low as $498 roundtrip.

Anchorage-Dallas/Ft. Worth: It's another nice day in the DFW Metroplex, especially if you can swoop in for a $434 roundtrip deal in mid-May 2013. This great rate also is available on select dates throughout the summer. In late November and early December, fly for $479 roundtrip on United.

Anchorage-Salt Lake City: This is the place. And this is the price: as low as $359 roundtrip in July 2013. Or, fly this winter for as little as $400 roundtrip via United's nonstop to Denver.

Anchorage-Detroit: I have not seen fares this low to Detroit in a while: fly United to Detroit for as little as $452 roundtrip in mid-May (May 14-22, 2013 via Houston). Or, fly in December (Dec. 4-10, 2012) for as little as $495 roundtrip.

Anchorage-Cincinnati: United is offering rates in mid-May (May 13-21, 2013) for as little as $451 roundtrip via Houston. Or, fly as early as Nov. 7-14, 2012 for $495 roundtrip via Denver.

Anchorage-Memphis: This is a great deal to the mid-South for as little as $449 roundtrip in May (May 13-20, 2013) on United. Or, fly next month (Nov. 23-29, 2012) for $493 roundtrip via Denver.

Bonus fare of the day: Fly Anchorage to Kona one-way on Nov. 12, 2012 for $164 on Delta.  Fly to Salt Lake City, then to Los Angeles International (LAX), then to Kona. That bargain rate is not available on the return, so you may end up paying $350 to $400 for your flight back. I suppose you can relax by the beach and figure it out, eh?

And don't forget about the great Alaska Airlines Anchorage-LAX rate: just $299 roundtrip between April 8 and May 28, 2013. Purchase this by Oct. 25, 2012. Read more here.

Repeat: Don't wait around on these fares. Goat rodeos don't come around every day; these cheap flights to and from Anchorage, Alaska, may only last a day or two, if that long.

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 and beyond. Visit his website at www.alaskatravelgram.com or follow him on Twitter for breaking travel news.