Travel

Anchorage’s nonstop flights to Europe are on pause, but shrewd travelers can still find other options

Anchorage’s window for nonstop service to Europe has closed for the season.

Condor’s last flight from Frankfurt arrived on Sept. 24. We won’t see another scheduled nonstop flight to Europe until May 18. That’s when Condor resumes its seasonal schedule.

Eurowings is scheduled to return to Anchorage on Monday, June 5.

You’ll save a lot of time taking the nonstops, that’s for sure. But if you want to visit Europe during the fall or winter, the prices are 30% to 40% less, even though you have to fly through the Lower 48 to catch a trans-Atlantic hop.

Prices have come down from the sky-high summertime rates. I expect them to sink even further, since there are three airline conglomerates, or “alliances,” vying for your Euro-business: oneworld — Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Finnair; SkyTeam — Delta, AirFrance, KLM, Virgin Atlantic; and Star Alliance — United, Lufthansa, Air Canada.

Even though I want prices to drop further, forces like rising fuel costs, labor costs and overarching inflationary pressure can interrupt the normal offseason pricing.

A quick scan of 18 top European destinations reveals that most are priced between $700 and $800 round trip for the cheapest of the cheap seats. The cheapest gateways from Anchorage are Copenhagen, from $630 round trip, and Stockholm, from $647 round trip. These seats are available starting Nov. 8. Here’s a list of my favorite destinations, the lowest price, the airline and the earliest travel date:

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Between Anchorage and:

• Lisbon, Portugal, from $753 round trip on Alaska Airlines and American. Fly as soon as Nov. 6.

• Madrid, Spain, from $689 round trip on Delta, starting Jan. 10.

• Barcelona, Spain, from $695 round trip on United, starting Jan. 16.

• Rome, Italy, from $733 round trip on American, starting Dec. 3.

• Paris, France, from $788 round trip on Delta, starting Nov. 12.

• Amsterdam, The Netherlands, from $774 round trip on Delta, starting Nov. 15.

• Athens, Greece, from $764 round trip on Alaska Airlines and American, starting Jan. 19.

It’s important to carefully review the rates to understand what you’ll get with your ticket — and what will cost you more money. All of the aforementioned prices are “basic economy” fares. That means you’ll pay extra for a pre-reserved seat and a checked bag.

If you’ve ever had a bad seat on a long flight, you can understand the advantage of having a pre-reserved seat. Also, I know travelers who have circled the globe with just a small backpack. But most people need to check a bag.

Accordingly, you can add $150 to every single one of these Euro-fares. That’s the cost to bump you up to “main cabin,” including a pre-reserved seat and a checked bag.

Mind you — you’re not getting a better seat. Rather, you have the opportunity to pick one out in advance. Also, on Delta, you have to purchase a main cabin ticket in order to get any frequent flyer points.

Once you’re booked in the main cabin, the airline will start offering you extra-legroom seats, refundable tickets, meals and other add-ons.

If you want to fly nonstop to Europe next May, you can trim about 10 hours in each direction on either Condor or Eurowings. Like last year, Condor’s prices are cheaper than Eurowings. In mid-May, May 20-27, a regular economy ticket on Condor is $1,100 round trip. To move to the “Premium Economy” section with better seats and more legroom, it’s a $600 upgrade, round trip.

If you’re hunting for tickets to the Lower 48, just wait a little bit. That is, unless you’re planning a trip over Thanksgiving or Christmas. If you’re planning to fly on peak dates, make your plans right away. The prices are high — but they’re likely to go higher.

But if you have some flexibility with your dates, keep an eye on prices. They’re sinking a bit. From Anchorage to Seattle, it’s $216 round trip on Delta or Alaska. From Anchorage to Los Angeles on Alaska Airlines’ nonstop, the cost is $340 round trip.

Last week, I got a bit nostalgic and looked back at what prices used to be.

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Forty years ago, I wrote my first travel column for the Anchorage Daily News, published Nov. 14, 1982. The subject was getting airline tickets for the upcoming holidays!

At the time, Alaska Airlines charged $448 round trip to L.A.’s suburban airports: Burbank, Ontario, Long Beach and Orange County. Back then, Alaska Airlines did not fly to LAX. Adjusted for inflation, Alaska’s Anchorage-Burbank ticket would cost $1,375 round trip.

There were four airlines competing between Anchorage and Seattle: Wien, Western, Northwest and Alaska.

Just flying from Anchorage to Seattle in 1982 cost $389 round trip. Adjusted for inflation, that’s the equivalent of $1,194 in 2022 dollars.

Looking back in time gives travelers some perspective that airline tickets are super-cheap these days. Even a first-class ticket from Anchorage to Seattle on Delta is $287 one-way, starting Oct. 30.

Of course, there are big differences between your airline flight in 1982 and a flight today. Back then, everyone was smoking. But the flight attendants served a meal to everyone, typically with more than one entree choice — chicken or steak? You could check all the bags you wanted without paying an extra fee. But, on balance, air travel was much, much more expensive than it is now.

There still are destinations from Anchorage that were expensive back then and they remain expensive today. Flying from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor, for example, costs about $700 each way on Ravn Alaska. Ravn flies the route with a Dash 8-300. It takes about three hours and 20 minutes.

Next month, Aleutian Airways will begin flying a repainted PenAir Saab 2000 on the route. Beginning Nov. 16, Aleutian will offer five nonstops per week, Monday-Friday. The Saab flies the route much faster, in two hours and 30 minutes. Aleutian Air is pricing its tickets about the same as Ravn, although there are no additional luggage fees for the first bag up to 50 pounds.

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Ravn Alaska is entertaining another new competitor on flights between Anchorage and Kenai and Anchorage-Homer. Kenai Aviation started flying on Oct. 3. Ravn flies seven to eight times per day in a Dash-8 that holds more than 30 passengers. Kenai Aviation flies four flights a day in a nine-passenger, twin-engine “Tecnam Traveler” on the route. A third air carrier, Grant Aviation, flies more than a dozen flights between Anchorage and Kenai, using Cessna 208 single-engine planes. All three air carriers charge about the same prices between Anchorage and Kenai: $140 one-way.

Just like prices, airline fleets and features are changing all the time. That hasn’t changed in more than 40 years. Another thing that hasn’t changed: the changeability of prices. All of the prices quoted here are subject to change without notice — and they change all the time.

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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