Scott McMurren

Two airlines announced new routes for Alaska travelers last week. It’s always important to watch for new route announcements, as they are usually accompanied by fare sales. JetBlue just announced a second nonstop flight between Anchorage and Seattle. Starting May 15, JetBlue is scheduled to offer two red-eye flights each day: one each to Seattle and Long Beach. Then, on June 18, the airline will add another red-eye flight to Portland. But this new flight to Seattle, starting July 1, departs for Seattle in the afternoon: 4:09 p.m. The return flight from Seattle leaves at 12:51 p.m., arriving in Anchorage at 3:54 p.m. Here’s the kicker: JetBlue is offering fares as low as $197 roundtrip on the new flight. This is great news for midsummer fliers who are used to paying high rates. The new...Scott McMurren
If you find yourself in Alaska’s capital city, Juneau, consider yourself lucky. Accessible only by boat or plane, it takes some effort to get there. It also takes some effort to decide which incredible adventures you can experience in one day. You can’t do it all—but you can try! 8 a.m. - Breakfast at the Sandpiper Get up early and hit the Sandpiper Cafe (429 W Willoughby Ave) for breakfast. Everything they make in this downtown cafe is delicious. But pay attention to the “specials” board when you walk in. There’s usually a special scramble with some exotic chorizo sausage. I always choose the home fries over the hash browns. There’s an entire menu section reserved for pancakes and french toast. Nobody leaves hungry! 9 a.m. - Tram up the mountainside From the parking lot at the Sandpiper...Scott McMurren
While the month of May offers great opportunities for early-season discounts around the state, it also signals an annual glut of new carriers that line up to fight for their share of summertime tourist traffic. That means lower fares and more frequent service. What’s not to love? Please note that fares change all the time. The good news is that most fares are changing for the better -- heading lower as May approaches. Let’s take a look at the most popular routes: Anchorage-Seattle: We’ve talked about the “Battle for Seattle” all winter -- and it’s a wonderful thing to watch the spite and malice play out between Alaska Airlines and Delta . If you have two weeks’ advance notice, the cost is just $251 roundtrip. That’s a great deal. But the real spoiler on this route is JetBlue . Starting on...Scott McMurren
We know it’s true that April showers bring May flowers. And as those May flowers are pushing up through the last of our late-spring snowfalls, they also announce the beginning of the summer travel season. The month of May is yielding some incredible airfare deals as seasonal airlines ramp up their summertime service. And all around the state, hotels, adventure outings and fishing trips are available at a discount. It’s fair to say that May should be the official "Alaskans see Alaska month," since the days are long and the prices are low. Even though I’m not a pilot, I love things with wings. That’s the case with most Alaskans -- which is why you want to put the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering on your calendar for May 2-3 at the big FedEx hangar by the Anchorage airport. It’s free to...Scott McMurren
Are you flying somewhere? Chances are good that you’ll be spending some time at the airport. Never mind checking in before your flight. How about those long connections in Seattle, Tokyo or San Francisco? Harriet Baskas explores airports around the world for her site, . She called in from Singapore to share some lesser-known amenities now available for travelers: 1. At Tokyo’s Narita Airport, there’s a new “Kabuki Gate” that opened in March. There is a Kabuki museum with costumes and music. The space was designed to introduce travelers to the traditional Japanese art form. “There is a row of iPads where you can take pictures of yourself with a Kabuki face and email it,” she said. 2. At Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, there are three new “lactation stations...Scott McMurren
Every prudent air traveler wants to get the best deal possible on their airline tickets. As spring approaches, more competition in Alaska makes those deals easier to find. Low prices are an important consideration when you’re choosing your flights, but it’s not the only variable. Frequent-flier plans, flight schedules and dependability all are factors when you’re buying a ticket. Today’s technology allows airlines to change prices at a moment’s notice. What’s not so flexible is an airline’s service mix. Many carriers are seeking to differentiate themselves with better seating, more generous frequent-flier plans or other special programs. Alaska Airlines recently launched a new initiative dubbed “Beyond.” They renamed their in-flight magazine, replaced their digEplayer entertainment system...Scott McMurren
My-Te-Fine Merchant: Fred Meyer’s Retail Revolution By Fred Leeson; Irvington Press; Portland, Oregon. At the time of his death in 1978, Fred Meyer had five successful “one-stop shopping centers” in Alaska, part of a retail empire that included 59 other stores in three other western states. His keen focus and domineering management style fostered a retail revolution that continues today. I grew up in Portland, Oregon. Accordingly, I have early memories of visiting Fred Meyer’s “One Stop Shopping Centers.” In 1964, our family visited the Raleigh Hills store in southwest Portland. It was before Christmas and my mother gave me the princely sum of $5 to go and buy some presents for other family members. I recall wandering through the candy aisle, then circling back for a nice Christmas...Scott McMurren
Airfares are always changing, particularly on hotly contested routes. For Alaska travelers, that means flights headed south to Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and a few other popular destinations. Most of April’s travel deals have come and gone. But there still are a couple of deals on Alaska Airlines for travel in the middle of the month: - Anchorage-Los Angeles/LAX nonstop for $319 roundtrip for travel April 8-25 (purchase by March 30) - Anchorage-Phoenix nonstop for $383 roundtrip for travel April 10-May 4 (purchase by March 30) USAir also offers a nonstop from Anchorage to Phoenix and if you hunt around, you can find it for as little as $377 roundtrip during the same period. USAir is owned by American Airlines . Accordingly, you may see the flight listed as an American flight -- but...Scott McMurren
A precipitous drop in the value of the euro means that the price of going to Europe just went down. Way down. Last year, the exchange rate between dollars and euros was close to $1.40 per euro. Earlier this week, the rate was $1.05. It’s bounced up a little since then, but analysts expect the rate to go lower. That means that hotels, rental cars, rail tickets, meals and admission tickets now are 30 percent cheaper than they were last summer. That’s great news for travelers. Right now, airfare prices are holding steady between $1,000 and $1,300 roundtrip on Condor between Anchorage and Frankfurt, the only nonstop service from Alaska to Europe. Icelandair is the next-quickest option, offering service to Europe with a stop in Iceland. Icelandair offers a $1,300 roundtrip fare in May to...Scott McMurren
Anchorage travelers, as a group, have an entirely different travel experience from residents of Bush Alaska. This doesn't just apply to the type of aircraft, availability of discounted airfares or to the number of people on the plane with you. Travelers to and from Bush Alaska must contend with freight -- and lots of it. That's because there is no overhead bin on a Cessna 207 for you to stow your new vacuum cleaner. And the neighborhood store in Aniak may have some things you need at the spur of the moment -- but it costs much more than in Anchorage. “I lived in Bush Alaska for 30 years,” said Jim Hickerson, president of Hageland Aviation, a unit of Ravn Alaska. “When we flew to Anchorage, we always would dedicate one day to shopping." Of course, shopping is just part of the issue. Then,...Scott McMurren