Even though there's fresh snow on the ground, spring has sprung in airline-land. That means the aircraft scheduling department is working overtime to line up additional summertime flights. Since 2017 is projected to be a banner year for travel to Alaska, there will be more flights in the air hauling more passengers.
Of course, more flights does not automatically equal better deals. But there will be some great deals on select routes. There are more options for travelers for interstate jet travel, whether you're using miles, points or cash to get your tickets.
Here's what each airline is doing to beef up service. Again, this does not include flights within Alaska — just from Alaska to the Lower 48, Hawaii and internationally:
Alaska Air offers more flights than all of the other airlines combined. Right now, for example, Alaska is offering 12 flights a day between Anchorage and Seattle. But that goes up to 19 each day, effective June 6.
Between Anchorage and Portland, Alaska boosts its service to three times daily. Anchorage-Los Angeles/LAX gets another daily flight (two total). There's a daily nonstop from Anchorage to Honolulu, too. The Anchorage-Chicago nonstop continues all summer long.
From Fairbanks, Alaska will offer four nonstops each day to Seattle. From Juneau to Seattle, there are five nonstops each day during the summer.
Delta Air Lines: The battle for Seattle between Alaska and Delta continues, even though Delta travelers will no longer earn Alaska miles after May 1. Delta will fly to Seattle from five airports in Alaska: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. That's good news for travelers because the competition between airlines keeps prices lower.
Anchorage-Seattle: Delta flies twice each day, increasing gradually through springtime to five flights per day effective June 7.
Fairbanks-Seattle: Delta will boost capacity from one regional jet (RJ-175) to a Boeing 737 on May 26. Then, on June 12, they will increase from one to two flights daily.
Juneau-Seattle: Delta returns with a daily B737 flight, starting May 20.
Sitka-Seattle: Delta will fly once a day with a regional jet, starting May 26.
Ketchikan-Seattle: Delta resumes its daily service on a regional jet on June 8.
Anchorage-Salt Lake City: Delta will fly once a day, starting June 12.
Anchorage-Minneapolis: Delta will boost its once-a-day schedule to three times a day on June 12.
Anchorage-Atlanta: This long-haul daily flight starts on May 20.
United Airlines: United offers a year-round Anchorage-Denver nonstop. The airline will boost that to twice-daily on June 8. United will resume its Anchorage-Chicago nonstop on May 31, increasing to twice-daily on June 9. The following day, on June 10, United will resume its Saturday-only nonstop from Anchorage to Newark, New Jersey.
American Airlines is Alaska's new "global network carrier," replacing Delta. Starting June 2, American will begin flying nonstop to three destinations from Anchorage: Dallas, Phoenix and Los Angeles/LAX.
Sun Country Air: This carrier only flies from Minneapolis during the summer. Those flights start on May 19 with three-times-per-week service. It moves to daily service on June 8.
Air Canada: With nonstop service from Vancouver, B.C., this service is custom-tailored to cruise travelers. That's because many Alaska cruises start or finish in Vancouver. Daily service from Anchorage to Vancouver starts on May 12.
JetBlue: You can tell when JetBlue returns to Anchorage — It's when the prices fall by about half. The Anchorage-Seattle daily flight starts on May 26 and the Anchorage-Portland flight starts the day before, on May 25. There is no Long Beach flight this year.
International: Sure, flights to Vancouver are technically "international," but that doesn't count. "Real" international service starts May 15, with Icelandair's twice-weekly flights to Reykjavik (Mondays and Thursdays). Condor's flights start the next day, May 16, flying to Frankfurt on Tuesdays and Saturdays. In June, Condor adds a third flight on Sundays. Yakutia Air offers weekly service from Anchorage to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatska on Mondays, starting July 17.
The best deals on this new crop of nonstops include Anchorage-Seattle for $69 one-way on JetBlue. Fly between May 28 and June 14 to get that rate. The lowest return flight from Seattle to Anchorage is $91, for a total of $160.
If you hunt around, you still can find an Anchorage-Portland flight for $71. But there are more available at $81, between May 27 and June 20. Return flights range from $83 to $123.
Air Canada is offering a good deal on its nonstop to Vancouver. To get the best price, buy two one-ways in two separate transactions. You can get a roundtrip ticket in May for as little as $342.
Other deals will come and go. But at most airlines scheduling and pricing are different departments. My guess is prices may drop a bit as we get closer to the actual launch of service in May and June. Stay tuned.
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.