Travel

If you’re going to fly out of Alaska this summer, expect to pay big bucks

Have you been checking summertime airfares lately?

I helped a friend get tickets from Los Angeles for travel later this month. He told me he’d been looking, but just gave up after all the tickets were pricing out at more than $1,000 round-trip.

But this was a trip that he had to make. True confession: This was a family event, so I talked him into using his miles. He’d been sitting on 180,000 miles for two years. I told him nothing depreciates faster than unused airline miles.

He opted to cash in 90,000 Alaska Airlines miles for a round-trip ticket between Burbank and Anchorage. If that sounds outrageous … well, it is. But compared with the cash price of more than $1,710, this trip was a pretty good use of his miles.

Let’s review some popular routes for Alaskans between here and the Lower 48.

If you want to travel from Anchorage to Seattle in June, prices are lower traveling June 20-28. On Alaska Airlines, most of the Saver seats have evaporated. So, one-way “main cabin” tickets are available for $169 one-way. That includes pre-reserved seat assignments at no additional charge.

The return tickets from Seattle to Anchorage run between $360 and $408 one-way during that week. But be careful. Each flight is priced differently. Some flights, including all the flights departing between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on July 24 cost $799 one-way.

Flights are less expensive between Fairbanks and Seattle. Between June 18-27, rates on Alaska Air are around $401 round-trip. Remember, all fares are subject to change without notice. Mileage tickets from either Anchorage or Fairbanks are available on these dates for 15,000-20,000 miles one-way southbound and 30,000 miles one-way northbound.

During July, though, some Fairbanks-Seattle tickets are available for less. But you might have to shop for one-way tickets in each direction to get the best deal. Between July 11-25, Delta is offering southbound tickets as low as $100 one-way. Alaska Airlines offers a cheaper return flight from Seattle, from $226-$268 one-way. But here’s the catch: You have to stop and change planes in both Juneau and Anchorage. Plus, it takes between 14 and 26 hours. One-way. I think it’s worth the extra money to pay $319 for a nonstop northbound flight.

Prices to Seattle from both Anchorage and Fairbanks drop off in mid-September to about $240 round-trip on Alaska Airlines and Delta.

If you’re flying to San Francisco, United has nonstop southbound flights for $191 one-way from June 16-30. Coming back is a different story, with one-way northbound tickets costing between $448 and $610. On almost all dates, United is offering cheaper nonstop tickets than Alaska Air.

In July, Anchorage-San Francisco tickets are available from $288-$738 one-way. On almost all dates, United was cheaper than Alaska Airlines. For northbound flights, the range is $378-$610 one-way. Again, United’s nonstops are not exactly cheap. But they’re cheaper than Alaska’s. On July 26, for example, United’s nonstop is available for $610 one-way, while Alaska Airlines wants $899. One-way. In coach. Or, you could cash in 40,000 Alaska miles for the flight.

Minneapolis is a popular destination for Alaskans, which is why there are three airlines providing nonstop service from Anchorage.

Sun Country Air almost always comes in with the lowest fare, since you have to pay extra for everything, even a carry-on bag. But compare the late-June nonstop prices for southbound flights. Sun Country charges $182 one-way while Delta charges $499 one-way. Coming back to Anchorage always costs more. On June 29, Sun Country charges $426 one-way — bare-bones — while Delta charges between $480 and $1,163 one-way, depending on which flight you want.

There are cheaper tickets available in July. Southbound tickets from Anchorage to Minneapolis range from $207-$418 one-way. Sun Country is cheapest. Delta has the most flights. Alaska flies a nonstop five days a week. The cheapest northbound flights range from $183 one-way (only on July 4) and $485 (on July 15) on Sun Country.

If you’re flying to Texas, there are a couple of sweet nonstop routes, both of which cost a small fortune. Between June 17 and July 29, American Airlines charges between $673 and $831 for a one-way nonstop ticket. There are a couple of days (June 25 and July 9) where the one-way fare exceeds $1,200. Pick another day. For the northbound flights, most days price out at $859 one-way. With American, you can earn Alaska miles.

Between Anchorage and Houston, United charges between $288 and $677 one-way between June 17 and July 28 for a southbound nonstop. To return to Anchorage between June 17 and Aug. 6, United wants between $679 and $809 one-way.

Again, fares are subject to change without notice — and they go up and down from day to day. If there is more than one flight per day, the fares can vary wildly from flight to flight.

Delta’s nonstop from Anchorage to Atlanta is a popular flight. Between June 22 and July 29, the southbound flight costs between $808 and $838 one-way. Your return ticket Atlanta-Anchorage will cost $920 one-way.

United’s nonstop from Anchorage to Newark is the quickest way to the East Coast. You could leave today on the nonstop for $290 one-way. But it goes up to as high as $925 one-way on June 17 or June 25. Most dates in June for southbound flights are available from $425 to $690 one-way. In July, fly southbound from $520 to $954 one-way. For the return flight between Newark and Anchorage, most dates are priced at $956 one-way.

Most prices start to come down in September. For example, a round-trip ticket to Portland drops from $636 on July 29 to $347 on Aug. 25.

If you’re planning on flying from Anchorage nonstop to Maui in mid-November, think again. Alaska Airlines has delayed the resumption of these flights from Nov. 17 to Dec. 16, just in time for Christmas. The first flights are priced from $998 one-way. To return to Anchorage on Christmas Day, the price is $289 one-way. If you want to return between Jan. 1-9, it’s $999 one-way. The nonstop from Anchorage to Kona starts a day earlier, on Dec. 15. The prices are the same, from $998 one-way.

If you’re still searching for a good deal after reading about the expensive flights, consider a trip from Anchorage to Panama City, Panama, on Delta. Fly southbound on Delta for as little as $135 one-way starting on Sept. 24. Return up to Nov. 3 for $202 one-way. The total price is $335 round-trip. It’s cheaper to purchase two one-way tickets on Delta. Also, return flights on Saturday are the cheapest and fastest.

Right now, the cheapest ticket to Europe is from Anchorage to Stockholm starting on Sept. 4. Fly Alaska to Seattle, then connect to Finnair on the nonstop to Helsinki, then flying back to Stockholm.

If you’re going to fly this summer, you’re going to pay the big bucks. If you have the miles, this is a really good time to use them.

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.

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