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Check out ‘gateway’ cities for a chance at cheaper overseas airfares

  • Author: Scott McMurren
    | Alaska Travel
  • Updated: October 27, 2018
  • Published October 27, 2018

Alaska travelers have to work overtime to get affordable airfares to far-flung destinations in the tropics, Europe, Asia and Africa. Our neighbors in the Lower 48 have a few more options, but there are tricks to getting fares as good as or better than theirs.

This fall, travelers who responded quickly were able to get fares from Anchorage and Fairbanks to Europe for less than $600 roundtrip. Those fares are gone now. So how can Alaskans get a better deal when published fares are between $900 and $1,600 roundtrip?

One trick is to get a cheap ticket to another "gateway" city like Seattle or Los Angeles.

For example, if you want to go to Paris, you can wait for another $580 roundtrip fare to pop up. I'm confident fares will drop more than once between now and the middle of December. But if you want to plan right now, published fares are around $1,000 from Anchorage with Alaska Air and Icelandair, via Seattle and Reykjavik.

Alternatively, you can purchase a ticket on Alaska Air from Anchorage to Seattle for $222 roundtrip. Then, fly on the very same flights from Seattle to Reykjavik to Paris for $389 roundtrip. Breaking the fare in Seattle can save you more than $300. I checked prices for Jan. 11-18, 2019.

Los Angeles is an attractive gateway right now because of low fares from Anchorage. You can travel next week to L.A. for as little as $192 one-way on United (via Denver). United, Delta and Alaska have one-way fares between $154 and $214. Alaska even offers a $175 one-way fare to L.A. on its nonstop flights on some days in December.

The least-expensive fare from Anchorage to Rome right now is through Frankfurt on Alaska Air and Condor, for about $1,150 roundtrip (in mid-January). But if you can find your way to Los Angeles, you can hop aboard Norwegian's nonstop 787 for $185 one-way (between Nov. 24 and Dec. 10). The return flight to L.A. from Rome is a little bit more, $216, between Dec. 3 and Dec. 12. To fly from Anchorage to L.A. during that time is about $330. Add to that $401 for Norwegian's ticket to Rome—and you've got about $420 more to work with on the ground in Rome. Keep in mind there are extra charges for checked bags, reserved seats and other goodies on your flights.

Headed to Japan? The simplest way is to fly to Seattle and catch a nonstop from there to Tokyo. This fall, the cost for that is between $900 and $1,000 roundtrip. Fly on Delta or All Nippon Air (ANA). But if you want to schedule beach time, fly to Honolulu on Alaska Air. Between now and Dec. 18, the cost is $197 to $237 one-way. Then, fly from Honolulu to Osaka nonstop on Air Asia for $238 roundtrip. Combining those fares can save you $250 to $300.

The lesson here is to consider shopping for a fare from a low-cost gateway. Then, compare it with a "through fare" from Anchorage.

Some of the best fares from Anchorage to the Lower 48 are set to expire at the end of the day Oct. 30. While it's likely they'll continue as long as Alaska and Delta continue their "Battle for Seattle," it's always best to nab your tickets if you know your dates and you're confident you won't change them.

Detroit is an expensive destination. It's a "fortress hub" for Delta, so it's great to see fares from $402 roundtrip on Delta or United. Fly between Nov. 27 and Dec. 14, or between Jan. 6 and May 10.

Any time you can get to Florida for less than $400, it's a great deal. Fly between Nov. 28 and Dec. 14 on Delta from Anchorage to Orlando for $357 roundtrip. Between Jan. 7 and Feb. 11, the fare on Delta dips to $349 roundtrip. That's a great deal.

Flights from Anchorage to Boston continue to be cheap and plentiful. Fly between Nov. 28 and Dec. 16 for $401 roundtrip on Delta. After the holidays, you can get the same price between Jan. 7 and May 7.

Delta is having a sale on its nonstop flight from Anchorage to Minneapolis, between $378 and $386 roundtrip. Fly between Nov. 22 and March 6 (excluding Christmas).

West Coast cities on sale include San Diego ($347 roundtrip on Delta and Alaska between Nov. 28 and March 7), San Jose ($311 roundtrip on Delta) and Sacramento ($311 on Delta).

I love the fares from Anchorage to Las Vegas: as low as $297 roundtrip on Alaska. But be careful — Alaska's cheapest fares mandate long layovers in Seattle. Delta's fares are a little more ($301 roundtrip), but the connections are much better. Fly between Nov. 22 and March 7 (excluding Christmas).

On the international front, Delta still offers a great deal from Anchorage to San Jose, Costa Rica, for as little as $509 roundtrip. There are a few days in early December, but there are more dates from Jan. 22 to March 6.

Remember, all fares are subject to change without notice. And they change all the time.

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