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When and why do tickets go on sale? Who knows. But here’s how to find them.

  • Author: Scott McMurren
    | Alaska Travel
  • Updated: August 26, 2017
  • Published August 26, 2017

Travelers are lucky here in Anchorage. For a city of our size, we have great airline service. In addition to the regional carriers that take people and cargo all over the state, our interstate and international airlines offer many options. And often, the tickets go on sale.

If you're a flexible traveler with a sense of adventure and a valid passport, you're likely to stumble on one or two great bargains if you look in the right places. All day long, I've been grabbing tickets to Hong Kong. Air Canada had a handful of tickets for as little as $397 round trip. The first available date for travel was on Sept. 3. There also were seats departing on Sept. 10 (for $400 round trip). Late last night, both Delta and United were offering fares between $558 and $568 round trip, without an overnight along the way. Today, the Delta and United fares are gone. As I write this, there still are a few seats on Air Canada. But they'll sell out quickly.

Sometimes the airline will quit selling the cheap seats, but not before another airline will match the price. Then, the original airline will jump back in for a day or two. So, while the Hong Kong deal may die off today, it could be back tomorrow.

All summer long, travelers have enjoyed great prices between Alaska and the West Coast. From Anchorage or Fairbanks to Seattle, prices are settling in at $278 round trip on Alaska or Delta. In fact, Delta is adding more seats in the Fairbanks-Seattle market. Last winter, one of the airline's regional partners flew the route with a smaller regional jet. But this year, the carrier is operating an Airbus A319. More seats means more deals.

Between Anchorage and Seattle, my favorite deal is in the front of the cabin. Both Alaska and Delta have chopped the cost of first class travel. Delta charges $216 one-way. Alaska charges $266 one-way. Between Fairbanks and Seattle, Alaska charges $288 one-way, while Delta charges $298.

My favorite deal from Seattle right now is Norwegian Air's nonstop flight to London's Gatwick Airport. Norwegian's fall sale to London starts on Oct. 16, with prices from $160 one-way. Just remember that if you cannot find a great deal from Anchorage or Fairbanks to your destination, try searching from our low-priced West Coast gateways.

Moving down the coast, fares from both Anchorage and Fairbanks to Los Angeles/LAX are hovering around $322 round trip. Both Alaska and Delta offer the rate from Anchorage, while Delta has the lower fare from Fairbanks. But that changes often — and Alaska usually (but not always) matches the lower rates.

It's a long flight to Los Angeles, but sometimes it's worth it to get a good deal. And L.A. has a lot of good deals right now. Here are a couple of my favorites:

1. Norwegian starts flying nonstop from L.A. to Rome in November. Starting Nov. 11, flights are available for $170 one-way, nonstop, on a Boeing 787. If you want to check a bag, get a pre-assigned seat and eat one of their meals, be prepared to spend another $90 one-way. I did that, just so I could get an aisle seat. But most people just got their seats at check-in. Most people also picked up a sandwich or two at the airport and brought it on board to eat.

2. Norwegian is flying nonstop from LAX to Paris. Prices start at $160 one-way, beginning Oct. 17.

It's a little more expensive to fly from Anchorage or Fairbanks to Oakland or San Francisco, about $400 round trip. That's still a good price, but you also could consider using miles for the trip. Pick your dates carefully and you can get there for 12,500 miles each way.

From San Francisco, you can fly WOW Air nonstop to Reykjavik for as little as $130 each way, starting on Sept. 11. Check out WOW's website, where they offer a bunch of connecting flights to Europe. WOWAir offers a daily flight from San Francisco to Reykjavik on an A330 wide-body aircraft. All of the connecting flights beyond Reykjavik are on single-aisle A320s. WOWAir allows for a free stopover in Iceland, which is an excellent idea. But that's the only thing that's free with WowAir … it's another pay-for-everything carrier. You'll pay extra for bags, seat assignments and meals. Here are three of my favorite deals on WOWAir beyond Iceland:

1. San Francisco-Berlin, as low as $200 one-way, starting Sept. 25.

2. San Francisco-Brussels, as low as $150 one-way, starting Oct. 2.

3. San Francisco-Milan, Italy, as low as $150 one-way, starting Sept. 6.

Go across the bay to Oakland to catch Norwegian's nonstop to Barcelona for as little as $190 one-way, starting Oct. 18. All of Norwegian's transAtlantic flights are on Boeing 787s.

None of these international flights offer mileage on Alaska Airlines. Believe me: I watch those mileage-eligible flights like a hawk. I love to accumulate Alaska Air miles, too. But Alaska's partners don't have any great sales going on right now.

Alaska Airlines has some good prices to many cities in their network, though. From Anchorage to Boston, Alaska charges as little as $205 one-way. Both Delta and United charge less: $192. But both of these airlines have stripped away things like advance seat assignments and checked baggage fees. For an extra $10, Delta will allow you to pre-reserve a seat. Delta still charges for checked bags, while Alaska allows two free bags as part of their "Club 49" program.

If you choose the $192 "basic economy" ticket on United to Boston, you can't reserve a seat, nor can you take a regular carry-on bag such as a small suitcase. Further, unless you pay for a bag, you will not be allowed to use the online check-in. Nope. United wanted to see you at the airport to make sure you aren't trying to smuggle aboard a regular carry-on bag without paying extra for it. Lovely.

Alaska, Delta and United all offer a great deal from Anchorage to San Diego, for $160 each way. All three airlines also offer flights from Anchorage to Las Vegas for as little as $160 each way. Just remember to pay attention to what's included in your ticket price — and what's not included.

Don't feel bad if you missed out on the deal to Hong Kong. Great airfare deals come along every few minutes. But it is important to be ready to act when you discover a bargain. You have a 24-hour grace period when you buy a ticket, which means you can cancel without penalty.

What's the best way to discover the best airline deals? There are plenty of resources available:

1. TheFlightDeal.com: I like this bulletin board of airline deals. I check it first thing every morning and every night before I go to bed. Now and then I'll find a deal to Anchorage or Fairbanks, but mostly I get clues about which airlines are putting what cities on sale. Then, I search to see if they included Alaska cities. That's how I found the Hong Kong deals!

2. AirfareWatchdog.com: This is a popular search-and-compare site. Some people like it. I don't, but you might have better luck. The site keeps pushing you to book with certain sites (CheapOAir and JustFly, for example), while I like to book with the airline directly, if possible. Of course, it's not always possible.

3. SecretFlying.com: Every now and then I can find a good deal using this site. Again, sometimes I won't see a specific city pair, but the sale they display is a clue to find a deal from an Alaska city.

4. My own Facebook or Twitter feed: facebook.com/Alaska.Travelgram or twitter.com/AlaskaTravelGRM. There's a mish-mash of good fares as I find them, along with other travel news and aviation notes. And yes, the occasional cat video.

5. Text-to-phone. It's called "Airfare911 Direct." This is for real travel junkies. Usually, there are 10 or 20 great fares every month that are worth shouting about. Sometimes the rates are only good for a day or two — or less. There's some technology involved, as well as people who know how to use it. It costs $5 per month. (Full disclosure: I am the owner of this service.)

It's important to remember that there's often no specific reason or event preceding an airfare sale. Sometimes it's just that one airline hates another airline. Or, sometimes a programmer makes a mistake. This is not an exact science, so there's still room to occasionally pluck a deal out of the air — and go on a great adventure!

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