My friend Alan Swensen had a great phrase regarding airfares: "Fare wars are like buses. One comes around every few minutes."
That's true in Anchorage, but not so much in the rest of the state. As summer-only airlines pack their bags and head south, fares are going up in Fairbanks and Juneau. In Anchorage, more complex competitive currents point to a nice collection of destinations on sale between mid-September and mid-October. Here's a "Top 10" list of the best deals.
1. Get lucky with flights to Las Vegas. Delta Air Lines is offering a $386 roundtrip fare between Anchorage and Las Vegas, Sept 15-Oct. 12. Or, you can pay a little more ($413 roundtrip) to fly on Alaska Airlines nonstop.
2. San Diego is just one of a string of California destinations on sale. Starting Sept. 15, you can fly on USAir on their nonstop to Phoenix. Go ahead, stroll around. You will be spending quite a bit of time there before connecting to your flight to San Diego. The cost is $380, but the connections are lousy, with layovers from three to seven hours. You're better off to fly Delta for $2 more ($382 roundtrip). The connections are much better through Seattle. This fare is valid through Dec. 15, 2014.
3. There are just a few days left for good rates to Seattle, thanks to the seasonal service with JetBlue. From Sept. 15 until Sept. 27, rates range from $203 roundtrip to $256 roundtrip. After that point, fares on Alaska and Delta shoot up to $495 roundtrip.
4. If you want to go to the Bay Area, Delta offers the best fares to San Jose, but only for departures between Sept. 22 and Sept, 28: $378 roundtrip. You may want to pay a bit more ($393 roundtrip) to get better flights.
5. Frontier Airlines is the low-fare leader between Anchorage and Denver. Their seasonal nonstop flights run through the end of September -- and they're priced between $303 roundtrip and $368 roundtrip between Sept. 21 and Sept. 30. The $303 roundtrip fare is only available departing Sept. 28 (at 1 a.m.), returning Sept. 30 at 8:40 p.m. All fares are subject to change, of course.
6. Fly from Anchorage to Austin, Texas, between Sept. 21 and Oct. 8 for as little as $386 roundtrip on United or Delta. Remember, you still earn Alaska Airlines miles when you fly on Delta. If you want to fly Alaska to Austin during that time, it will cost you between $446 and $608 roundtrip.
7. If you're headed to the East Coast, the rates from Anchorage to Boston are the best: as low as $386 roundtrip between Sept. 21 and Oct. 8 on Delta or United. This is an awesome fare and you should drum up a reason to go. Just to compare, you can fly on Alaska Airlines for between $460 and $671 roundtrip, depending on the specific dates.
8. The cheapest flights to Los Angeles/LAX are on the nonstops with Alaska Airlines, departing Sept. 14 through Oct. 10 for $414 roundtrip. Compare that to JetBlue's service from Anchorage into nearby Long Beach Airport. During September, all flights are routed through Seattle and the best prices are between Sept. 17 and Sept. 26, between $321 and $363 roundtrip.
9. New York is the city so nice, they named it twice. And two airlines, United and Delta, are offering rates as low as $432 roundtrip for travel between Sept. 22 and Oct. 10.
10. There are just a few dates left for travel to Frankfurt, Germany on Condor's nonstops from Anchorage. The best prices start on Tuesday, returning Sept. 13, 14 or 15 for $752 roundtrip. There are more dates available where the costs is a little more, around $800 roundtrip. Or, you could fly between Sept. 20 and Sept. 30 for $842 roundtrip. Don't forget your passport.
Getting the best deals: One of the most-robust search engines is operated by Google's ITA Software. You cannot purchase tickets at that site, so you can take the info and go to the airline's own site. Or, consult a travel agent.