October is a great month to find bargain airfares. Of course, we're in the midst of the annual PFD sale with Alaska Airlines -- and the rates are great from many of Alaska's smallest jet-ports including Kodiak, Kotzebue and Ketchikan.
In Anchorage, though, more airlines swoop in to get a chunk of the travel pie. That makes for some competitive fireworks. Let's review:
United Airlines now offers the cheapest ticket from Anchorage to the Lower 48: Anchorage-Phoenix for $347 roundtrip. Seats are available departing Anchorage as soon as Oct. 29, 2012. The cheap rates are available all the way through April and May of 2013.
And in a taste of deja vu, jetBlue's nonstop flights from Anchorage to Long Beach are now available for next summer, starting May 17, 2013. The price? Just $327 roundtrip.
Lots of Texas, Pennsylvania stops
Headed to the East Coast? Two cities are priced less than $500 roundtrip: Anchorage-Boston for $481 roundtrip on Delta and Anchorage-Philadelphia for $483 roundtrip on United. United also offers cheap seats to a half-dozen destinations in West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania between $503 and $517 roundtrip. Places like Parkersburg, Clarksburg, Altoona, Beckley, Morgantown and Staunton. Typically, flights in and out of these smaller airports can cost $800-$900.
United also is offering a bundle of deals to cities and towns in Texas. Fly from Anchorage to Dallas on United for as little as $499 roundtrip. Or, shell out $509-$515 roundtrip and fly to places like Harlingen, McAllen, Loredo, Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland/Odessa or Tyler.
For the Caribbean crowd, nothing beats the deal on Delta to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The coach fare is great: $564 roundtrip. But the first class fare is EPIC: $870 roundtrip. Plus, there are a lot more dates available in November and December using the first class option.
Want to go to Mexico? American Airlines has a good rate from Anchorage to Guadalajara: just $581 roundtrip. I picked a couple of itineraries and found seats available: Nov. 11-22, 2012 and Jan. 11-22, 2013.
Some of the best deals to the Midwest from Anchorage are with Alaska Airlines: Anchorage-Kansas City for $460 roundtrip and Anchorage-St. Louis for $449 roundtrip.
If you want to play hide-and-seek with US Airways, you can snag one of their $349 roundtrip tickets between Anchorage and Long Beach. There are a few seats available the first week in December, as well as weekend departures in January. A few more dates are available at $383 roundtrip. Or, choose from more dates on USAir's flights to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) at $417 roundtrip.
This latest round of airfare cuts, particularly to Phoenix, Atlanta and Philadelphia, indicate that United is mad at Delta and USAir. Who knows why? I don't. But I do know this: when airlines are mad at each other, prices drop, and travelers win.
One note on methodology: I use the map feature at FareCompare.com to scan for bargains. From there, I reference the ITA Software site to review a month's worth of fares. Neither site is perfect, so I use a variety of other tools to verify and confirm airfare availability. But for most travelers, these two sites can provide a wealth of information on good deals to a multitude of cities.
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.