Airplane pilots are busy this week bringing home the last of the season’s holiday travelers. Many flyers are planning their next trip since airfares are so low.
How low? Well, when I arrived in Anchorage in 1978, I checked on airfares to New York. The cheapest flight was a “joint fare” between Western and Eastern Airlines for $750 round trip (about $2,900 in 2019 dollars). Today, you can purchase a ticket from Anchorage to New York’s JFK airport for $472 round trip on Delta.
There are some differences, of course. There was more legroom in 1978 — and meals were free. You could check your bags at no additional charge and it was easy to change your ticket. Today, the base price for a ticket is for a middle seat — probably near the back of the plane.
Not all cities are enjoying increased access to low fares. But Anchorage is. Things change, too. If one airline pulled out of Anchorage, fares could go up suddenly. But right now, it’s a great time to plan a trip and buy some tickets. The rates I’ve been checking require a 21-day advance purchase. Most allow for travel through mid-May. Let’s review some of the best deals:
Anchorage-Seattle: This is the most contentious route from Alaska to the Lower 48. The battle between Alaska Airlines and Delta continues to yield big dividends for thrifty travelers. That’s because when the airlines are mad at each other, the traveler wins. Right now both carriers offer one-way fares between $102 and $111. These rates are for the cheapest-of-the-cheap seats, or “basic economy.” Alaska Air calls it the “Saver” fare. Add $30 each way if you want to use the benefits of your loyalty plan, including upgrades or pre-assigned seats away from the potty.
Anchorage-Portland: Delta’s fares are a little cheaper than Alaska’s, starting at $154 one-way. But Alaska Air offers two daily nonstops for as little as $14 more (each way). The least-expensive days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.
A bunch of other airports in Washington and Oregon: Delta is taking the battle to other airports in the region —and that’s a good deal for travelers. Between Anchorage and Boise, Spokane, Redmond/Bend, Eugene, Medford and Pasco, the one-way rates for travel between late January and mid-May are $151-$154 each way. For parents sending their kids back and forth to school, these are great prices!
O, Canada: Fares from Anchorage to Vancouver, B.C., start at $132 one-way on Delta or Alaska for travel through March 2. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are the cheapest days to fly. From Anchorage to Victoria, tickets are $132 each way through April 30 on either Delta or Alaska. Don’t forget your passport. To Calgary, tickets start at $169 one-way through April 30 on either Delta or Alaska.
San Francisco: All airports are not created equal. Lately, I’ve come to like Oakland, since it’s smaller, with more convenient access to Napa Valley, as well as the great connection to London on Norwegian Air. But right now, it costs about $30 more to fly there instead of either San Francisco or San Jose. Delta has the best prices right now, $164 one-way from Anchorage to either San Francisco or San Jose, compared to $192 one-way on Alaska. Flights to Sacramento from Anchorage also are available for about the same price.
Los Angeles: The best deal from Anchorage to Los Angeles is Alaska Air’s nonstop red-eye: $179 one-way. If you fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, you can catch a good connection on either Delta or Alaska for $156 one-way. Plan carefully and you might be able to get the nonstop on the way back for $149. But there’s a catch: It arrives bright and early in Anchorage at 4:30 a.m.
Arizona: Delta has the cheapest rate from Anchorage to Phoenix for $184 one-way. But for an extra $13, you can fly nonstop on Alaska Airlines. SOLD! The best prices are available up to March 2, after which they go up to $199 each way.
Denver: Fly Anchorage-Denver on Delta for $164 one-way. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are the cheapest days to fly. United wants $285 one-way for the nonstop flight. Remember, with United’s “basic economy” fares, you have to pay extra to bring your standard-size rolling carry-on aboard.
Honolulu: Usually, tickets to Hawaii are more than $500 round trip during the winter. Right now, you can fly nonstop to Honolulu for $228 one-way starting on Jan. 14 on Alaska Air. This fare is available through mid-April.
There are a few international routes that stand out, including Norwegian’s Seattle-London/Gatwick service. The nonstop flight on a Boeing 787 resumes on March 31 for $180 on the outbound flight. Return flights start at $213 one-way.
Fly nonstop from Honolulu to Osaka for $99 on “Scoot,” starting on Jan. 11. Scoot is owned by Singapore Airlines. The airline flies a Boeing 787 on the route. AirAsia also offers nonstop flights for as little as $111 one-way Honolulu-Osaka.
Fly to Australia nonstop from Honolulu to Sydney for $239 one-way on Jetstar, which is owned by Qantas. Jetstar flies a Boeing 787 on the route. The return flights start at $196 one-way.
There’s no question that the base fare for air travel is low. But it’s up to each traveler to decide what’s important: seat assignments, checked bags, extra legroom and the chance for an upgrade all cost extra.