Travel

The best airfare deals will take you out of state, but you can still find bargains for flights within Alaska

Most of the best airfare deals from Anchorage are for out-of-state flights.

Last week, for one brief, shining moment, you could get a ticket from Anchorage to Seattle’s Paine Field for just $83 one-way. Alaska Airlines is promoting its once-daily nonstop. So it’s often priced a little cheaper than flights to Sea-Tac.

Compare that with flights between Anchorage and Kenai. The short flight takes 20-35 minutes. There are three air carriers flying the route, so there’s plenty of competition: Grant Aviation, Ravn Alaska and Kenai Aviation. Each weekday, there are 23 flights a day. Most of the seats sell for $140 one-way. Ravn, which has the bigger planes, 37-passenger Dash-8s, offers seats on a few of its flights for $110 one-way.

If you want to use your Alaska Airlines miles on Ravn, you can redeem 10,000 miles one-way, in addition to a $19 fee.

Flying in Alaska is more expensive. Comparing the out-of-state or international bargains we get here in Anchorage with in-state fares will only lead to heartache. It’s just best to remember that there’s little correlation between where a plane flies, routing, and the cost of a ticket, fare.

Last week, Alaska Airlines sent out emails to all of its in-state frequent flyers about the “Constituent Fare” to Juneau. The goal of the promotion is to encourage Alaskans to visit the state capital during the legislative session. Stop in to see your representative and senator. Knock on the governor’s door — be sure to call first. Enjoy some Heritage coffee. Ski Eaglecrest.

Save that email. It has a coupon code in there to trim 30% off of the three-day or seven-day advance purchase fare. From Anchorage, the three-day advance purchase fare is $287 one-way. The seven-day advance purchase rate is $247 one-way.

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If you need to travel right away, the last-minute rate is $318 one-way. To trim 30% off that rate, use one of the “Travel Now” e-certificates that you get as part of Alaska Airlines’ Club 49 membership.

The cheapest fare to Juneau requires a 21-day advance purchase: $177 one-way, unless you have some Alaska Airlines frequent flyer miles. Combine those miles with a three-week advance purchase and you can visit the capital for as little as 5,000 miles one-way, plus a $6 fee.

[Whether you play airlines’ frequent flyer game or not, there’s plenty to consider]

Tickets to Fairbanks are not quite as expensive as flights to Juneau, starting at $92 one-way, with a 21-day advance purchase. If you have the miles and you can plan three weeks in advance, it’s just 5,000 miles each way, plus $6.

Start planning now for the Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks. Visit the park between Feb. 17 and March 17.

World Ice Art Championships

If you want to fly to Nome in March around Iditarod time, you still can pick up some Alaska Airlines mileage tickets for as little as 5,000 miles each. If you’re paying cash, it’s about $174 each way.

There are a couple of destinations where using Alaska Airlines miles can save you a bundle on in-state travel. One is to Ketchikan, where the cheapest tickets are $269 one-way on Alaska Airlines. Or, cash in 7,500 miles each way.

The other standout mileage bargain is to Adak. Alaska Airlines flies nonstop twice each week — Wednesdays and Saturday — to this outpost close to the end of the Aleutian Island chain. You can get there for 7,500 miles each way, plus that pesky $6 fee. If you want to pay cash, it’s $568 one-way.

Alaska Airlines is the only in-state scheduled passenger jet airline. If you need to go to Kodiak, Dillingham, King Salmon, Bethel, Kotzebue, Utqiagvik, Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka or Cordova, it makes sense to double-check to see if using miles is a more affordable option.

Beyond Alaska’s jet destinations, the cost of tickets goes up.

Between Anchorage and Dutch Harbor, Aleutian Airways started flying late last year. The air carriers using the Saab 2000 aircraft, first pioneered by Peninsula Airways (PenAir). That service ended in October 2019 after a well-publicized fatal accident. So, after a three-year absence, Aleutian Airways now offers one flight each day, Monday through Friday. The fares start at $659 each way for the 2 1/2-hour flight.

Ravn Alaska is flying a Dash-8 two to three times each day between Anchorage and Dutch Harbor. The published time for the flight is 4:20 each way. Fares are about the same: from $639 each way. If you have lots of extra Alaska Airlines miles, you can cash in 40,000 miles for the one-way flight, plus $19 in fees.

Ravn flies its Dash-8s to a collection of smaller destinations around southwest Alaska, including: Sand Point, Cold Bay, Aniak, St. Mary’s and Unalakleet. Between Anchorage and St. Paul Island, the air carrier flies three times each week. The fares start at $579 each way. And yes, you also can cash in 40,000 Alaska Airlines miles — each way.

In addition to its destinations off of the road system in southwest Alaska, Ravn also flies to Homer and Valdez from Anchorage.

If you want to — or need to — fly to smaller destinations around the state, there’s an air carrier that can take you there, whether it’s on a scheduled departure or a private charter.

But you have to plan for it.

If you want to go to Savoonga, St. Michael or Shishmaref, you’ll have to first fly to Nome on Alaska Airlines. From there, Bering Air can take you. The one-way fare from Nome to Shishmaref, for example, is $280 in a Cessna Caravan.

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If your destination is Wainwright or Point Lay, your first stop is Utqiagvik on Alaska Airlines’ jet from Anchorage. At that point, you transfer to Wright Air Service. Wright Air is in a separate terminal, but Matt Atkinson, who is working the Wright’s counter in Utqiagvik, said that’s usually not a problem.

“It’s just 124 steps from Alaska’s terminal to our front door,” he said.

It’s a short flight to Wainwright, according to Atkinson. “It’s 35 minutes in a Caravan. Or one hour and 10 minutes to Point Lay,” he said.

The cost from Utqiagvik to Wainwright is $227 one-way, or $322 one-way to Point Lay. Each passenger is allowed 100 pounds of baggage.

[Weather-related travel issues are inevitable. Here are a few tips to keep your schedule and your sanity.]

Out in Bethel, Grant Aviation served up to 60 surrounding villages, according to Rob Kelley, the company’s CEO. “We serve between 30 and 35 villages on a scheduled basis and others with charters,” he said.

“We pick passengers up in our van and take them about a half-mile to our terminal,” said Kelley.

Another air carrier, Yute Commuter Service, is in the same terminal as Alaska Airlines.

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Grant Aviation, in addition to its hub in Bethel, also maintains a hub in Dutch Harbor. From there, Grant flies to St. George, Akutan, Atka and Nikolski. One interesting route is between Dutch Harbor and Akutan. The airstrip is on a separate island, Akun Island. To get to Akutan, travelers have to book a separate helicopter flight with Maritime Helicopters. Tickets for the 6-mile ride are $100 each.

Traveling to the far reaches of Alaska is an incredible experience. But it costs a lot more than that bargain ticket to Seattle.

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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