Travel

Flight availability is shifting, in part due to a spike in jet fuel prices. Here’s how to navigate changes as you make summer plans.

How many Alaskans have international travel on their list for this summer?

Lots.

Many travelers deferred trips abroad because of the pandemic. But now they are ready to fly, in spite of mask mandates and vaccination restrictions.

A popular travel option, Icelandair’s twice-weekly nonstop flight to Reykjavik, just got canceled. But not because of COVID.

The message came in an email on Wednesday, confirmed the next day by the company at the airport that handles the ground-side operations for seasonal carriers.

The folks at Icelandair were looking forward to launching on May 16 after an absence of two years.

“A few variables were involved with the decision, but fuel is the main factor right now,” wrote Michael Raucheisen, Icelandair’s communications manager for North America.

In the last month, the average price for domestic — Lower 48 — jet fuel has increased more than 50%, from $2.68 per gallon to $4.12 per gallon, according to the Argus US Jet Fuel Index.

In addition to suspending the Anchorage-Reykjavik nonstop flights, Icelandair will be instituting a fuel surcharge starting April 1.

Travelers who have purchased tickets on Icelandair should contact the airline right away to rebook flights, probably through Seattle.

This summer, Icelandair will offer two flights every day between Seattle and Reykjavik, with connections to other European destinations. Icelandair has several other gateways besides Seattle from the Lower 48, including Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York and Boston. Call Icelandair’s reservations line: 800-223-5500.

Icelandair is a mileage and code-share partner with Alaska Airlines. If you go to the Icelandair website, you still can book flights from Anchorage to Iceland. But there are no more nonstops available — all the flights go via Seattle.

If you booked your trip on Icelandair with Alaska Airlines using either cash or miles, you’ll need to contact Alaska Airlines to rebook your trip: 800-252-7522. If you booked through a travel agent, including online travel agents such as Expedia or Priceline, you’ll need to contact that agent or company.

Iceland is a great adventure destination — so much more than just a connecting airport. If you’re going beyond Iceland on your journey to Europe, be sure to schedule a stop. Discover the giant waterfalls, the incredible scenery and its friendly people. Even if you’re there just for a long layover, you can get a taste of the country at the nearby Blue Lagoon resort. It’s located between Keflavik Airport and downtown Reykjavik. Many folks schedule a stop there before their flight. It’s super relaxing.

Two other airlines, Condor and Eurowings-Discover, plan to operate nonstop service between Anchorage and Europe via Frankfurt, Germany. Condor has flown the route for more than 20 years. Condor’s first flight of the season — after a two-year absence, is on May 21. Prices for a one-week trip to Frankfurt on the first flight start at $880 round trip. The airline will offer three flights each week, one of which will stop in Fairbanks on the way.

Eurowings-Discover is a subsidiary of Lufthansa. The airline plans three nonstops per week — Monday, Thursday and Saturday. But the prices to Frankfurt are more than twice as much as Condor’s. The flights start on June 13 and the cost to fly on the first flight is $1,734 round trip.

Icelandair is not the only airline canceling flights this summer.

Frontier Airlines, with a hub in Denver, had planned to return this summer with two weekly flights during the summer. But availability suddenly vanished and Anchorage could no longer be found on the route map.

Fuel prices likely are a contributing factor in Frontier’s decision. But a bigger consideration in that both Alaska Airlines and United will offer nonstop Anchorage-Denver service. United flies the route year-round. Alaska is resuming its nonstop flights on May 19.

Airlines make a big deal about starting new service, but often fail to mention when they’re pulling out of a market.

Last summer, Delta rolled out a collection of wonderful nonstop flights for weekend travel: Anchorage-New York/Kennedy, Anchorage-Detroit and Anchorage-Los Angeles. But those flights aren’t in the schedule this summer. Neither is Delta’s Fairbanks-Salt Lake from last summer.

However, Delta’s long-haul nonstop from Anchorage to Atlanta starts up on May 1. Other nonstops remain in the schedule from Anchorage to Minneapolis, Seattle and Salt Lake City, as well as Fairbanks-Minneapolis.

United is dropping one of its flights this summer — but it’s an oddball. Last summer I flew from Anchorage to Fairbanks on United. A first-class ticket cost me $60. That was a wonderful option, but it’s not available this summer.

United’s first seasonal flight to Chicago from Anchorage leaves Sunday evening, March 27. In addition to Chicago, and Denver, United will offer summertime nonstops from Anchorage to Newark, Houston and San Francisco, plus Fairbanks-Chicago.

American Airlines is dropping Fairbanks service altogether, according to Fairbanks airport director Angie Spear. Last summer, I flew from Fairbanks to Chicago with American on a new Airbus A321. Last year they also flew to Dallas. This summer, American will fly nonstop from Anchorage to both Dallas and Chicago starting May 5.

Alaska Airlines has no plans to cancel or reduce its summer schedule, which features a bumper crop of new nonstops from Anchorage, including service to Salt Lake, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Francisco and Minneapolis.

Scott McMurren

Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at zoom907@me.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram.com/about.

Sponsored