What goes up must come down, right?
That’s what travelers are hoping as they shop the dizzying airfares of the summer of 2022.
Fueled by pent-up demand for travel, a constricted schedule because of labor shortages and more than a dollop of corporate opportunism, airfares are at record levels.
But fares will come down this fall, after the kids go back to school.
Doing a comprehensive scan of fares from coast to coast, there’s a huge variation between peak summertime fares and prices for the fall. If you’re thinking of using your frequent flyer miles, those redemption levels are much higher, too.
Here’s a list of some popular destinations, the highest summertime fares along side the lower rates in the fall. Of course, all fares are subject to change without notice. And they will change … more than once.
Anchorage-Seattle: Fly at the end of July (July 28-Aug. 3) for $687 round trip on Alaska Airlines. Or, be prepared to redeem 80,000 mileage plan points.
In mid-September, rates drop to $236 round trip on Delta (Sept. 19-25), or redeem 13,000 Skymiles frequent flyer points. On those specific dates, Alaska Airlines offers flights for 50,000 miles.
Anchorage-Los Angeles: Fly nonstop on Alaska Airlines for $1,087 round trip between July 29 and Aug. 5. The same nonstop flights are available for 90,000 Alaska miles.
Fast-forward to Sept. 22. For a weeklong stay the cost on Delta is $349 round trip, or 21,000 Skymiles. Alaska Airlines charges $519 round trip, or 45,000 miles.
Anchorage-Phoenix: Fly Alaska Airlines nonstop on July 29, returning on Aug. 5. The fare is $1,067 round trip, or 80,000 miles.
Starting on Sept. 13, the fare on Delta between Anchorage and Phoenix drops to $358 round trip, or 29,500 Skymiles. Alaska Air charges $461 on the same dates, or 35,000 miles.
Anchorage-Denver: Traveling from July 29 to Aug. 5, the fare on United Airlines’ nonstop is $806 round trip. After Sept. 12, Delta charges $372 round trip or 20,000 Skymiles.
Anchorage-Dallas: This one’s a doozy — fly nonstop on American Airlines’ nonstop between July 27 and Aug. 6. The fare? A whopping $2,207 round trip. Sure, you’ll earn Alaska Airlines miles on the flight, but that’s a tall stack of bills. If you have a lot of Alaska miles already, shell out 100,000 miles for a one-stop itinerary to Dallas.
After Oct. 4, fly on the same plane: nonstop from Anchorage to Dallas. American drops the fare down to $378 round trip. Or, redeem 42,500 Alaska Airlines miles, changing planes in Seattle.
Anchorage-Minneapolis: Fly nonstop on Delta between July 29 and Aug. 7 for $952 round trip, or 75,000 Skymiles. Fly on Alaska for 90,000 miles, nonstop, on the same dates.
If you travel instead on Sept. 27, returning on Oct. 4, the price on Delta’s nonstop drops to $408 roundtrip, or 26,000 Skymiles. Alaska Airlines charges $710 round trip, or 70,000 miles.
Anchorage-Chicago: Fly nonstop between Anchorage and Chicago from July 30 to Aug. 6 with United for $1,080 round trip.
In late October, (Oct. 29-Nov. 6) the fare on Alaska Airlines’ Anchorage-Chicago nonstop drops to $320 round trip, or 27,500 Mileage Plan miles.
Anchorage-Newark: Fly United’s summertime Anchorage-Newark nonstop for $1,298 round trip between July 30 and Aug. 6.
Or, wait until Oct. 24 for a one-stop itinerary on Delta for $474 round trip. Fly the same itinerary, from Oct. 24-31, for 26,000 Skymiles. Alaska Airlines charges $500 round trip, or 60,000 Mileage Plan miles.
Anchorage-Orlando: Fly between July 29 and Aug. 6 on Alaska Airlines for $1,346 round trip , or 90,000 Mileage Plan miles. Or, wait almost two months and travel Sept. 22-28. The price on Delta drops to $538 round trip, or 33,000 Skymiles.
Anchorage-Puerto Vallarta: Between July 29 and Aug. 5, United charges $1,186 round trip. That price falls to $573 round trip Aug. 22-29.
Anchorage-Frankfurt: Fly nonstop on Eurowings/Lufthansa between July 25 and Aug. 1. The fare is $2,209 round trip. Or, fly Sept. 4-10 on Condor for $630 round trip. With Eurowings, you can earn and burn United “MileagePlus” miles. On Condor, you can earn Alaska Airlines miles, or burn 50,000 Mileage Plan miles on this itinerary.
Scanning these fares, I discarded the wildest itineraries with crazy layovers or extra stops. I picked good flights, including nonstops when available. Sources included the airlines’ own websites and Google Flights. Prices vary widely on each day — and they change all the time. But the trend is clear: The peak travel time is at the end of this month, after which the prices start to come down. They come down faster to some destinations than to others — but they are coming down.
Regarding frequent flyer miles and redeeming them for tickets: If you need a bunch of miles in a hurry, consider applying for one of the airline co-branded credit cards. Alaska Airlines partners with Bank of America. Right now, they’re offering a promo to get 40,000 miles and a free companion pass (you pay the taxes and fees). There’s a $75 annual fee. You have to spend $3,000 in the first 90 days to get the bonus miles.
Delta Air Lines partners with American Express. Right now they’re running a promotion to earn 70,000 bonus Skymiles. There’s a $2,000 “minimum spend” within 90 days. The card costs $99 per year, but they waive the fee for the first year.
United Airlines partners with Chase Bank on its MileagePlus card. Right now, there are four cards available with bonuses up to 100,000 miles.
Airline miles are an important hedge for travelers, especially for last-minute travel. But just like paid tickets, redemption levels are going way up. Between credit card deals, airline campaigns to sell miles and other events, an increasing number of travelers have lots more miles to spend, competing for a limited number of available frequent flyer seats.
For example, Alaska Airlines gifted 90,000 miles to each of its employees last week. The bonus was a birthday gift handed out as part of the airline’s 90th anniversary celebration. With one stroke, Alaska Airlines added more than 2.1 billion miles to its Mileage Plan currency. More than 22,000 travel-savvy professionals now have 90,000 more miles to spend on tickets.
Travelers can plan now for lower fares this fall. But if you have a lot of airline miles, you need to use them. Nothing depreciates faster than unused frequent flyer miles.