Are you ready to get on a plane again? To see the world — or maybe just one slice of it?
When I asked Dr. Tom Hennessy last week about traveling on planes, he said he’s not doing it. Dr. Hennessy is an infections disease expert with UAA. His definition of a “close contact” is someone who’s within six feet for 15 minutes or more. Depending on how big the plane is, that could make for a lot of “close contacts” even for a three-hour ride to Seattle. So — will you stay home? Or will you scrub down, mask up and get on the plane?
The airlines hope you opt for a plane ride. For their part, carriers are putting more time and effort to clean their planes and eliminate extra touch-points between their staff and passengers. Most airlines, including Alaska and Delta, are mandating masks for everyone during the whole flight. Delta still is blocking middle seats. Most airlines have relaxed their change and cancellation penalties. Now, as fall approaches, prices are starting to drop, too.
When Pat Brady of Eagle River wanted to go to Minneapolis to visit her granddaughter, she weighed the pros and cons of air travel. The results were different for her and her husband, who elected not to travel because of health considerations.
“But he still got me a first class ticket on Alaska Airlines,” said Brady. Prepared with her safety goggles, her mask and her gloves, Brady was making final preparations when Alaska Air canceled her flight.
Rather than negotiate the new times and dates, Brady elected to switch to Sun Country Air’s nonstop flight to Minneapolis.
At the last minute, she got a cheap ticket and paid $59 to upgrade to a premium seat with more legroom. She also had to pay $30 to check her bag.
“I felt very comfortable on the flight,” she said. “The Sun Country plane was really clean. I would definitely fly them again.”
Right now, Sun Country is offering tickets from Anchorage to Minneapolis for $117 each way through Sept. 19. The premium seats are extra, as are checked bags.
Most airlines canceled their long-haul nonstop flights this summer. But American Air still is operating their Anchorage-Dallas and Anchorage-Chicago nonstop flights.
Mike LeNorman, a former Alaskan now living in Texas, hopped aboard one of American Air’s new Airbus A321s for the 6.5-hour nonstop flight from Dallas to Anchorage.
“Everybody was masked up — the crew and the other passengers,” he said. “Our flight was pretty full on the way up, but it was a liberating experience to travel again.”
LeNorman started to talk about the great food and the nap he enjoyed. Then he confessed that he got an upgrade to first class, courtesy of his uber-frequent flyer status.
A former airline executive, LeNorman is bullish on travel in general and particularly on domestic travel within the U.S. “The fares are so low,” he said. “You can’t go wrong.”
Indeed, travelers can get a ticket to either Dallas or Chicago nonstop on American Airlines for $109 each way to travel between Aug. 21 and Oct. 6. Frequent flyers can earn Alaska Airlines miles on all American Air flights.
Alaska Airlines is making a splash this weekend with a buy-one-get-one-free sale to any destination on its route system (except Prudhoe Bay). The special is valid for travel between now and Oct. 31. But you have to purchase no later than 11 p.m. Alaska time on Sunday, Aug. 9.
The special 2-for-1 deal is only available for two travelers flying together. It’s available only for “main cabin” fares, not for the cheaper “saver” fare or first class. The deal is not valid on Fridays or Sundays. The 2-for-1 offer does not apply for government-mandated taxes and fees.
Between Anchorage and Seattle, the lowest fare on Alaska Air is $117 each way. But that’s a Saver ticket. Add $30 for a main cabin ticket in order to get the 2-for-1 ($147 one-way). Headed to Fairbanks? The cost is $97 each way. All in-state fares are main cabin. With taxes and fees, the total for two travelers between Anchorage and Seattle is $156 one-way.
From Anchorage to Los Angeles, Alaska Air flies nonstop between Sept. 9 and Oct. 6 for $152 each way in main cabin, which qualifies for the 2-for-1 special. With the taxes and fees, the total amount for two travelers is $160.20 one-way.
If you have friends coming north who want to take advantage of this deal, remind them of the new travel mandate for inbound travelers. Specifically, inbound travelers must get a COVID test within 72 hours of their flight. Travelers can request an at-home test from a number of different providers, listed on the State of Alaska DHSS website.
According to the latest travel mandate, if you are not a resident of Alaska and you arrive without results from a recent COVID-19 test (within 72 hours), you can get tested at the airport for $250. There is no charge for a test if you are an Alaska resident.
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