No matter how you look at it, this summer will be different for travelers.
Even though the big cruise ships aren’t sailing up the Inside Passage, lots of people want to come to Alaska. After all, Alaska has two things going for it: more people are getting vaccinated than anywhere else in the U.S. and there are more wide open spaces.
The bump in vaccinations here in Alaska is a game-changer for travelers. Even though other COVID-19 mitigation practices prevail (mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing), once you’ve been vaccinated, you’re a little more confident about traveling. I know I am.
If you want to explore Alaska this year, the attractions and activities that we’re used to may be available on a smaller scale — if they’re available at all. For example, the Alaska Railroad is scaling back its passenger service to accommodate the lower projected passenger count absent the cruise travelers.
Instead of leaving the station in Anchorage every morning for Denali National Park and Fairbanks, northbound trains will depart on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The return trips will be on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The railroad’s season starts a little later this year: May 29. And it ends a little earlier, Sept. 6. The train to and from Seward will run every day, as will the “Glacier Discovery” train from Portage to Spencer Glacier.
More independent travelers are making plans to visit Alaska this year — and more airlines are adding flights to make up for the lack of cruise ships.
There’s always a seasonal bump for the summertime travel season. But this year is different.
Delta Air Lines is adding new flights to new destinations and hub cities from both Anchorage and Fairbanks.
From Anchorage, Delta is adding new nonstop flights to Detroit, New York’s Kennedy Airport and Los Angeles. These new flights will operate only on Fridays and Saturdays, starting May 28.
Also, Delta is boosting flights from Anchorage to its hub cities: up to seven flights per day between Anchorage and Seattle, three flights per day between Anchorage and Minneapolis and two flights per day between Anchorage and Salt Lake City. Plus, Delta is resuming its Anchorage-Atlanta nonstop on May 5.
From Fairbanks, Delta will operate three daily nonstops to Seattle, two nonstops to Minneapolis and a new nonstop flight to Salt Lake City. Delta’s flights to Seattle already operate year-round, but the airline has committed to year-round service for the new flights to/from Minneapolis and Salt Lake.
Delta is not the only airline adding nonstop flights from Alaska. It’s just the latest to make the announcements.
United Airlines announced its summer schedule a couple of months ago. The airline operates nonstop flights to Denver year-round. But starting on June 3, United will operate daily flights from Anchorage to San Francisco, Houston, Newark and Chicago. Plus, United is adding a daily Anchorage-Fairbanks flight starting on June 3. The fare? Just $49 one-way.
American Airlines has high hopes for Alaska this summer. From Fairbanks, American is operating a daily flight to Dallas and one to Chicago. From Anchorage, there are nonstops to Chicago, Dallas and Phoenix. American’s fares are worth writing home about. Right now, American still has a great fare from Anchorage to New York for $99 one-way, connecting in either Chicago or Dallas.
Don’t forget: American Airlines is Alaska’s new partner in the oneworld alliance. That means eventually, your Alaska Airlines elite MVP status could get you extra perks on American and other oneworld partners like Qatar Air and Japan Airlines.
You can add all of these airline departures together. Even throw in Sun Country Air’s new weekly service between Fairbanks and Minneapolis (on Saturdays), plus its daily flights from Anchorage to Minneapolis. The total still would not add up to Alaska Airlines’ new summer schedule.
Alaska Airlines is bringing on some new nonstop destinations — and extending service for others.
At the peak of the summer season, Alaska Airlines will offer 19 flights each day between Anchorage and Seattle. The schedule shows three flights each day between Anchorage and Portland and two flights daily between Anchorage and Los Angeles/LAX.
Starting on June 17, Alaska will resume nonstop service between Anchorage and Denver. The daily flights are scheduled through Aug. 16.
On May 20, Alaska will resume nonstop flights between Anchorage and Las Vegas. Alaska’s Flight 707 will depart Anchorage at 11:55 p.m., arriving at 6:10 a.m. the following day. The flight is scheduled to operate four days a week: Thursday-Sunday.
Now that Alaska has a hub in San Francisco, Anchorage will get its own nonstop flight, starting on June 17.
Starting on May 20, Alaska Airlines will launch two daily flights from Anchorage to Chicago. On Sept. 8, the schedule goes back to one nonstop flight each day.
Alaska’s schedule also shows three flights per week all spring between Anchorage and Honolulu (through May 18). After that, Alaska will fly nonstop Anchorage-Honolulu every day. Between Anchorage and Maui, Alaska will fly nonstop four days a week: Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays. The last Anchorage-Kona nonstop is on Mar. 16. Right now, those flights are scheduled to resume on Sept. 9, with three flights per week.
In addition to its fights to the Lower 48 and Hawaii, Alaska Airlines flies to 19 destinations in Alaska from Anchorage.
Although international airlines like Condor and Eurowings are scheduled for Anchorage-Frankfurt flights, the borders are still closed so the planes aren’t flying. That’s also the case with the weekly flights from Anchorage to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in Russia. Air Canada canceled its nonstop from Vancouver, B.C., last year.
There still are huge swaths of the world that still are inaccessible to Americans because of the COVID-19 virus. That includes Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Indonesia and much of Europe. There are other countries where it’s possible to fly to, but the virus is raging. Brazil falls into this category.
Watch for more low fares for travel around the U.S., since airlines are jockeying for fewer travelers.