Scott McMurren

Just as a rash of new flights start to show up in Anchorage, air fares to the affected cities are falling, falling, falling. And that is a good thing. At a very basic level, this is Airline Pricing 101: hold out to the last minute for high fares, then drop the rates to fill the planes. At that point, the incumbent carrier (usually Alaska Airlines) matches the rate and a price war ensues. Let's take a look at some of the best destinations for low fares: A. Anchorage-Honolulu. Alaska Airlines has a monopoly on this route, so I'm thrilled they're offering a bargain for summertime flights. NOTE you MUST purchase these deals by 11:59pm on May 27. The all-in price for Anchorage-Honolulu is $396 roundtrip. From Fairbanks, the price to Honolulu is $456 roundtrip, all-in. Travel on Friday,...Scott McMurren
In today's online travel environment, there are more ways for travelers to take advantage of great fares at a moment's notice. There also are pitfalls which can cost you hundreds of dollars if you're not careful. It's almost like the internet is providing an opportunity for travelers to make the same mistakes that rookie travel agents have been making for years! Let's review: A. Beware of the Phantom Fare. This is a common ploy by airlines to get you to book flights. The problem is this: they list a great fare, but there are no corresponding seats to buy! Right now, Delta lists a fare of $414 roundtrip between Anchorage and Minneapolis. But there are no seats available. In this case, Delta was matching a Sun Country Airlines offer for travel through June 11. But right now, it doesn't...Scott McMurren
It happens every year: the snow melts, the sun stays up late and early-season travel deals pop up in all corners of the state! The seasonal resort hotels around Denali National Park are just opening this week, so they're offering some great deals. The Denali Princess is offering rooms for as little as $99 in May — going up to $134 in June. But one of the best deals is to catch a combination rail/hotel deal up to Denali. Both Princess Tours and Gray Line of Alaska offer these packages. Princess offers a 3-day/2-night package in June for as little as $449 per person, double. That includes roundtrip rail on their private rail cars and two nights accommodations. Gray Line offers a two-day/one-night package for as little as $239 per person, double. Both packages feature accommodations at the...Scott McMurren
Okay. It's official: Continental and United have agreed to merge their network airlines to form the world's largest air carrier. Based on recent merger activity, most recently that of Delta and Northwest, let's assume the marriage will be consummated. Continental will be absorbed into the United brand — and the two companies will operate as one. What does it mean for Alaskans? On the surface, not much will change. Neither Continental nor United has a sizable presence in the Anchorage market. In fact, since both United and Continental are part of the "Star Alliance," they already cooperate on pricing, schedules and frequent flyer mileage plans, along with USAir and Air Canada. The short-term effects of this merger will be felt in Cleveland — which probably will lose its hub status. Service...Scott McMurren
We spend a lot of time researching where to travel — and how much to pay. But don't forget "how" to travel. It's important to consider things like your luggage, the clothes you wear, the gadgets you bring and your overall attitude. A. Luggage. I loved the movie "Up in the Air" with George Clooney. There's a scene at the airport where co-star Anna Kendrick shows up dragging an aging Samsonite suitcase behind her. Clooney's character, Ryan Bingham, promptly opens it up and throws out half of the stuff and crams it into a fancy carry-on bag. My kinda traveler. If it's at all possible, ditch your checked luggage in favor of carry-on. Bingham loves "Travelpro" rolling bags. I have one from Eagle Creek and another from Both are lightweight with two wheels and an extendable handle...Scott McMurren
With all the new air service beginning in Anchorage, it's helpful to review some of the new developments for travelers during the summer months . Condor Airlines . Nonstop service from Anchorage to Frankfurt starts on May 4. Fairbanks-Frankfurt starts later in the month. Condor flies Boeing 767's on the route. This year, the planes have been reconfigured to feature three classes of service: Economy, Premium Economy and Comfort Class. The Premium Economy class includes free drinks, a better in-flight meal, an amenity kit and six inches of extra legroom. Comfort Class offers first-class seating and meals with plenty of extra room to stretch out. Frontier Airlines . Frontier offers a single red-eye flight from Anchorage to Denver beginning May 14. As a result of its merger with Midwest...Scott McMurren
The latest round of fare cuts leading up to the summer season has begun. There are three sets of discounts -- we'll go through them one by one. Alaska Airlines announced early this morning its springtime fare sale between Alaska and the Lower 48, which is almost identical to its sale last month. The lowest rate between Anchorage and Seattle is the same: $436 roundtrip, including all taxes and fees. There's just a 10-day advance purchase required, though. In part, that is because all travel must be completed by June 10, 2010. Just like last month's sale, the lowest fares are available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Travel on the other days costs, on average, about $20 more each way. Between Anchorage and destinations in Idaho, Oregon and Montana, the fare is $516...Scott McMurren
Just when you thought you had a handle on the best fares -- everything changes. Overnight. That's what happened over the weekend. Alaska Airlines had a fare sale. It has come and gone. Some airlines matched the fares dollar-for-dollar. Some did not. Now, we're approaching the summer travel season, where competition will heat up on nonstop routes to San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, Portland and Seattle. But all fares are not created equal. For example, if you want to travel later this month into early May, it can be very expensive on Alaska Airlines. That's because Alaska Airlines is waiting for the other airlines to start their service before discounting it. Call it competitive pricing, call it predatory -- it's just what airlines do. Usually. In this case, U.S. Airways is offering the...Scott McMurren
These are interesting times in the air travel business. As travelers, we're witnessing downward pressure on air fares as more airlines enter the Alaska market. Earlier this month, United dropped its lowest advance-purchase fares to dozens of destinations from $700 to $900 roundtrip to around $560 roundtrip. There is a 21-day advance purchase -- but the fares are available. And last week, Alaska Airlines offered some "Spring Fling" specials from Alaska to select destinations in the Lower 48 -- particularly to Chicago, Denver and Seattle, where the roundtrip fare from Anchorage dipped below $450, all-in. Tickets for Alaska's sale fares must be purchased by April 2, 2010, and travel must be completed by June 18, 2010. Late last week, though, the attention shifted to an Alaska Airlines policy...Scott McMurren
It's a busy week in Airline-ville. Everyone's gearing up for their summer season. Adding flights. Hiring people. Oh -- and getting customers. That's my favorite part. For the past couple of days, I've been really crunching the fares to find the best deals. That said, we always keep an eye on Alaska Airlines -- because of the carrier's dominant position in Anchorage. Today, Alaska Airlines came out with a nice springtime sale. It overlaps nicely with some lower fares offered by United Airlines and its partners Continental and USAir . First, some of the basics. Alaska's sale fares are valid for travel outside the state on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays between April 6 and June 18, 2010. You have to purchase your tickets at least 14 days in advance. However, you must purchase...Scott McMurren