The New Year is plugging right along on schedule. There's snow on the ground and northern lights are shining in the sky. And no, those aren't shooting stars on the western horizon over Sleeping Lady. Those are planes coming in for a landing at the airport — and it's busy out there. That's good for travelers, especially if several airlines are competing for their business.
Right now two airlines, Alaska and Delta, are fighting hard for travelers. That's keeping fares down. As summer approaches, other airlines are lining up to serve Anchorage. Most of them have filed their final schedules. Here are some highlights:
JetBlue: The daily nonstop from Anchorage to Long Beach is gone. But JetBlue will start flying nonstop to Portland on May 25 and to Seattle on May 26. Right now they are charging $101 each way, although just a couple of weeks ago the starting price was $67 each way. Of course, prices go up and down all the time.
While JetBlue is known as a low fare airline, both Delta and Alaska are offering lower fares to Seattle right now. Delta is offering a few dates this summer for $64 one-way to Seattle (one day in June, two days in July and four days in August). Delta has more days available at $75 for Anchorage-Portland flights. Alaska is offering $86 one-way tickets to Seattle between May 28 and June 22.
United Airlines: The daily nonstop flight to Denver is United's only year-round service from Anchorage, for which it charges the princely sum of $852 round-trip. Beginning March 9, United will resume its daily nonstop flight to Chicago (priced from $497 round-trip). On June 8, United resumes its daily nonstops from Anchorage to Houston ($1,037 round-trip) and from Anchorage to San Francisco (from $852 round-trip). On Saturday, June 10, the carrier resumes its weekly Anchorage-Newark nonstop flight (from $739 round-trip).
Sun Country: This Minneapolis-based carrier flies to and from the Twin Cities, starting with weekend service on May 19, ramping up to daily service on June 8. Prices start at $437 round-trip.
Air Canada: Since many cruise ships start and finish their Alaska itineraries in Vancouver, this Air Canada flight is popular with cruise passengers. The daily flights start on May 12 and are priced as low as $400 round-trip. Air Canada is a mileage partner of United Airlines through the Star Alliance.
American Airlines: American only flies to Alaska in the summer. On June 2, the airline starts its Anchorage-Los Angeles nonstop (from $303 round-trip), as well as its Anchorage-Dallas nonstop (from $719 round-trip). The next day, June 3, American resumes its Anchorage-Phoenix nonstop (from $413 round-trip). Travelers on American can earn miles on Alaska Air's Mileage Plan.
Delta Air Lines: Delta offers year-round flights from Anchorage and from Fairbanks to Seattle. Right now the carrier offers one daily flight from Fairbanks and three flights each day from Anchorage. Delta also flies five flights a week (Monday-Friday) between Anchorage and Minneapolis. That goes to daily service on Feb. 12. On May 20, Delta boosts that to two daily flights from Minneapolis. And the airline ramps up to six daily flights from Anchorage to Seattle in the peak of the summer.
On May 19, Delta resumes its daily nonstop from Anchorage to Atlanta. On June 12, Delta will resume nonstop service from Anchorage to Salt Lake City, but only on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.
Icelandair is ramping up its twice-weekly nonstop service to Reykjavik on May 15. The flights operate on Mondays and Thursdays. Flights in early May are priced as low as $645 round-trip. It's a seven-hour flight and travelers can earn Alaska Airlines miles.
Condor starts its seasonal flights to Frankfurt the next day, May 16. In May, Condor offers two nonstop flights each week on Tuesdays and Saturdays. In June, the airline adds a third weekly flight on Sundays. Prices start at $1,050 round-trip.
Yakutia Air operates weekly service on Mondays from Anchorage to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. It's a 4:30-flight from Anchorage to Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. Most of the travelers on the flights are fly-fishermen, hunters or outdoor enthusiasts. The flights operate between July 17 and Sept. 4. The promo price of $1,150 round-trip includes a 16-day minimum stay. Fares for shorter stays can cost as much as $1,860 round-trip.
Alaska Airlines has more flights than all of the other airlines combined. Right now there are "only" 12 daily flights between Anchorage and Seattle, plus three daily flights to Portland, one flight to Honolulu and one flight to Los Angeles. Then there are flights that don't operate every day: Anchorage-Maui, Anchorage-Kona and nonstop flights to Las Vegas and Phoenix.
On March 11, Alaska resumes its nonstop to Chicago. Then, in May, it starts adding more flights to Seattle, up to 19 each day in June. On June 4, Alaska adds a second nonstop from Anchorage to Los Angeles.
Of course, Alaska's footprint extends beyond Anchorage. There's also daily service to the Lower 48 from Ketchikan, Juneau and Fairbanks. The airline's in-state route map has lots and lots of lines on it, especially when you include the regional partners like Ravn Alaska and PenAir.
If you're looking for great prices, watch those destinations where more than one airline serves the route. We've been enjoying great prices up and down the West Coast all winter. As long as the war between Alaska Airlines and Delta continues, travelers will enjoy the collateral benefits of better service and lower fares.
Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram.com/about.