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You can nab some great airfares right now – but there might be a catch

  • Author: Scott McMurren
    | Alaska Travel
  • Updated: March 10, 2018
  • Published March 10, 2018

There is a nonstop stream of bargain airfares coming across my desk. Some of them are really great. Others … not so hot.

Most of the best deals, though, have some sort of hoop you must jump through or some special requirement that sets it apart.

For example, you can fly from Anchorage or Fairbanks to San Jose, Costa Rica, for $498 round trip. This is a fabulous price on Delta Air Lines. What's the catch? Well, chances are you'll have plenty of time to explore some airports.

It's a narrow window when the deal is available: between April 10 and May 10. You'll need your passport. But it's the layovers that are daunting. The specific route depends on the day you travel. Departing Anchorage on April 10, there's an 8 1/2-hour layover in Seattle before the connecting flight to Los Angeles. Then, you'll wait another 2 1/2 hours before the flight to San Jose. The return flight is not quite so onerous: a four-hour layover in L.A., followed by a one-hour layover in Seattle.

There's more. This is a "basic economy" fare with Delta. If you want to reserve a seat in advance, it costs $5 more in each direction. Then, you'll get to pay your fees to check your bags.

Here's another crazy fare: Fly from Anchorage or Fairbanks to Reykjavik, Iceland, for $592 round trip. This is a great price, but crazy routing. The first available date, leaving on April 26, is on Delta. The connections are great, but it's just a long flight via Seattle and New York/JFK. The fares go up and down until the end of May, when you can get the good price on most days throughout the summer. But be careful. You'll get the option to choose United, which includes a change-of-airport in New York. After changing planes in Denver, you land at New York/LaGuardia. Then, you have five hours to make it over to JFK for your flight to Iceland.

Or, you might get the option to fly on Air Canada starting in late May. That routing features a nonstop flight to Vancouver, B.C., with a 15.5-hour layover. Then, fly to Montreal for a 4 1/2-hour layover before flying to Reykjavik. The return flight also is ridiculous: Fly nonstop from Iceland to Calgary for a 20-hour layover. Then, it's just a two-hour layover in Vancouver before catching the return flight to Anchorage.

Honestly, I get tired just thinking about such a trip. It makes me envy the folks who get to fly Icelandair's nonstop from Anchorage to Reykjavik, which, of course, is more expensive.

Usually, I shy away from combining too many airlines on an itinerary. But sometimes it's worth it. For example, most folks can figure out how to get to Seattle on their own. Then, get a separate ticket on Norwegian to London's Gatwick Airport. The price is as low as $405 round trip, nonstop on a Boeing 787 (April 15-23). Norwegian also has a few great nonstop deals from Oakland to Paris in April (from $422 round trip) and from Los Angeles/LAX to Rome for $400 round trip (April 11-18). Everything costs extra on Norwegian. When I flew from Oakland to London, I bought a reserve seat, a checked bag and a meal (chicken-on-a-stick) for $90.

Tickets within the U.S. usually are easier to manage. And nonstops are the best. The best deals right now for Anchorage-Seattle tickets is on JetBlue's nonstop for $94 one-way starting May 27. JetBlue's nonstop from Anchorage to Portland is a little more: $104 one-way. It's not uncommon, though, to see those rates drop further closer to departure. Already, the Anchorage-Seattle rate dropped last month for a couple of days to $74 one-way before bouncing back up to $94.

Delta's nonstop from Anchorage to Minneapolis is just $346 round trip, starting on March 30. Fairbanks travelers can fly on Alaska to Minneapolis for as little as $365 round trip. But there's a long layover in Seattle: from two to seven hours.

Alaska Airlines is offering a really nice price from Anchorage to Albuquerque: as low as $363 round trip for travel between April 3 and April 28. You can still fly through May 11, but the price creeps up to $373 round trip. There's just one stop in either Seattle or Portland.

My favorite one-stop hop to the East Coast is from Anchorage to Boston. It's just $409 round trip on either Delta or United for travel between March 29 and May 11. Remember, though: both of these carriers will charge you extra to reserve a seat in advance. Travelers in Fairbanks can get a ticket to Boston for as little as $417 round trip on Delta between April 11 and May 10.

Anytime you can get a ticket from Anchorage to Florida for less than $450 round trip, you should go. Right now, you can fly to Orlando on Delta for as little as $435 round trip between March 30 and April 27. There are not as many dates available for Fairbanks travelers, but tickets are available from $455 round trip between April 10 and 25. Because of the intense competition between Alaska Air and Delta, you may be able to find similar deals on select dates with Alaska, too. Just be careful about long layovers in Seattle.

Fares change all the time, of course. I'm watching for more price drops as summer approaches and competition increases!

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