Did you miss the big PFD airfare sale? That's too bad. Does it mean you'll have to pay the big bucks to fly to the Lower 48? Not necessarily.
After a modest bump after the end of the sale on Oct. 12, airfares in competitive markets have dropped again. That means if you can lock in your dates, you can get a good deal to some — not all — key destinations.
Between Anchorage and Seattle, there are plenty of cheap seats. If you plan now for travel Jan. 13- March 7, you can fly for as little as $239 round trip on either Alaska or Delta. Fly sooner than that for $279 round trip. But most of the spike pricing around key Thanksgiving and Christmas dates is gone. For example, you can fly south the day before Thanksgiving, returning on Sunday for $360 round trip. These typically are the two most popular travel days of the year. Even at Christmas (Dec. 22-Jan. 2), you can fly on Delta for $475 round trip.
Treat yourself to a first-class ticket between Anchorage and Seattle for as little as $467 round trip on Delta. Alaska recently upgraded its first-class section, bringing back the blankets and offering more legroom between the seats. They're charging $543 round trip. These are great deals for riding in the front of the bus, complete with meal service and two free bags.
If you're flying to Portland, Alaska Air is offering a $279 round-trip fare on its nonstop flights starting Jan. 13.
Between Anchorage and Los Angeles/LAX, you can fly cheaply right away: $321 round trip, leaving next week on either Alaska or Delta. The same is true true for travel to Las Vegas: Fly next week for as little as $343 round trip on Delta.
If you want to fly to the Bay Area in Northern California, the best rates are on Delta between Anchorage and San Jose: $363 round trip, starting on Nov. 9.
Delta's flagship route, the nonstop flight between Anchorage and Minneapolis, is just $345 round trip, starting on Nov. 11. It's too bad they still fly the old 757 on this route, compared to the new 737-800s they fly between here and Seattle.
Delta also is offering good deals to other cities along the northern tier, including Bozeman, Montana ($367 round trip), Rapid City, South Dakota ($367 roundtrip), Fargo, North Dakota ($363 round trip) and Duluth, Minnesota ($363 round trip).
Further south, Alaska, Delta and United offer a fare of $341 round trip between Anchorage and Phoenix starting on Nov. 5. Delta has a good rate to Salt Lake for $363 round trip and to Albuquerque for $371 round trip.
I still love the fare from Anchorage to Boston: $379 round trip on Delta. Alaska charges $409 round trip. But remember: You have to dig deeper than just the basic fare these days. With Delta's cheap fare, you'll likely pay more for bags and end up in a middle seat unless you pay extra. Alaska's $409 round-trip fare includes reserved seats — and Club 49 members receive two free checked bags when flying to or from Alaska.
The great unbundling of airfares continues. Now, more airlines (like American, United and Delta) are charging more to pre-reserve your seats. Then there is the fee to check a bag. Heck, United even charges you to bring a full-size carry-on bag when you buy their lowest "basic economy" fare.
The domestic airlines do not have a monopoly on this new fee structure. Starting next May, Icelandair will introduce its "Economy Light" fares, which means you pay extra to check a bag. The lowest fare for its nonstop flight from Anchorage to Reykjavik on May 14 is $265.60 one way. You still can reserve a seat, but if you want to check a bag, it will cost you $45 more. Keep in mind Icelandair must compete with super-discounter Wow Air, which shares its hub at Keflavik Airport near Reykjavik. Wow Air is offering tickets right now from San Francisco to Reykjavik for as little as $130 each way. But if you want to reserve a seat, check a bag or bring a full-size carry-on aboard, the fare jumps up by $99, to $229.
The same is true for one of my new, favorite airlines, Norwegian. You can fly aboard one of the airline's new 787 Dreamliners between Seattle and London for $180, starting Nov. 5. But it's $90 more if you want to get a reserved seat, a checked bag and some of their food. Honestly, most people on my flight from Oakland to London picked up a sandwich and a salad in the airport to eat on the flight. With the overhead bins, though, there was plenty of room for folks to bring on big carry-on bags, which they did.
So all is not lost if you missed the big sale last month. But be prepared to act if you see a good deal. Even if the flights often are on sale, it doesn't mean they're always priced low.
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 email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram.com/about.