This week, I received an email that got my attention: “Fly to Hawaii for $177 one-way” was the headline.
That was all it took for me to drill down and do more research. But it didn’t take long to find out the northbound flight from Honolulu to Anchorage was more than twice the cost: anywhere from $359 to $499 one-way.
This is not just a Hawaii problem, though. Airfares between Anchorage and the Lower 48 are spiking in advance of what promises to be a robust summertime tourist season.
Between Anchorage and Seattle, you can fly on most days in June for about $157 one-way on Delta or Alaska Air. But the return flight costs much more: between $260 and $430 one-way.
Those prices are high — but once you look at the departure times, the flight you want may cost more. Much more.
For example, the least-expensive northbound Seattle-Anchorage flight on June 11 is $260 one-way on Delta flight 780, departing at 10:25 p.m. If you’d rather fly earlier, say 8 p.m., the cost goes up to $430 one-way. If you want to fly Alaska Airlines at 8:40 p.m., the cost goes up again to $519 one-way. Prices vary from day to day and from flight to flight. But the trend, clearly, is that fares are going up, up and away.
Traveling this summer to Boston will be exceptionally spendy. On most days in June, United has the least-expensive rates, between $259 and $357 one way. The northbound Boston-Anchorage flights in June range from $644 to $821 one-way on United. Flying north on Alaska Airlines during that time costs more: between $845 and $1,045 one-way.
For a weeklong trip to Dallas in June, budget at least $850 round-trip (on United). Or, fly nonstop on one of American Air’s two daily nonstop. You’ll earn Alaska Air miles on these flights. Fares range from $913 to $1,740 round-trip. Rates in July are a little higher. Lower fares start to show up in mid-August. All fares are subject to change without notice — and they change all the time.
Fly between Fairbanks and Los Angeles for $708-$827 round-trip on either Delta or Alaska in mid-June.
Not all fares are through the roof, though. Between Sitka and Seattle, both Alaska Airlines and Delta are offering $99 one-way fares, or $198 round-trip. Between Ketchikan and Seattle, Delta is offering round-trip fares of about $230. Alaska Air costs $294 round-trip.
[Your flight-booking conspiracy theories, debunked]
There are some options for travelers as prices go up, up, up.
Use your miles. Most travelers have a stash of Alaska Airlines miles. Even if you have a lot of Alaska Airlines miles, you may be surprised at the redemption levels.
Between Anchorage and Seattle in June, it will cost you about 62,500 miles round-trip.
You’ll need to shell out about 100,000 Alaska Air miles for a ticket to Boston from Anchorage in mid-June. It costs a little more than that, about 105,000 miles, to fly on miles between Anchorage and Dallas.
Flying between Fairbanks and Los Angeles in mid-June, the best flight options cost 65,000 Alaska Air miles.
The trend is clear: as prices go up, mileage redemption rates go up as well. There are some bright spots, though. Fly between Anchorage and Frankfurt on Condor Air June 15-22 for 60,000 miles in economy or 95,000 miles in premium economy or business class. Additionally, there are $212 in fees, per person.
Use your Alaska Air Visa Companion Pass. The Alaska Air Visa card (from Bank of America) is very popular with frequent travelers. I have two of the cards, in part to take advantage of the $121 companion pass ($99 plus taxes). Typically, I save the companion pass for high-dollar tickets, such as Christmas in Hawaii or spring break in Mexico. But with prices topping $1,000 round-trip in June to many destinations, using the companion pass is a good option. Both the full-fare paying traveler and the companion earn full mileage credit.
There are some hoops to jump through to use the companion pass. First, it’s only available for two travelers flying together on the same itinerary. Second, you have to have the Visa card itself. There’s a $95 annual fee and there are minimum-spend requirements in order to receive the companion ticket. If you’re just signing up for the card, you’ll qualify for a sign-up bonus if you spend $2,000 in the first 90 days. Right now, it’s 50,000 miles and a $100 statement credit. I’ve seen the bonus as high as 72,000 miles.
Flying is not the only way to get from Alaska to the Lower 48. Holland America Line has some cruise discounts available just for Alaska residents. Sail on either the Nieuw Amsterdam or the Noordam on select dates between Whittier and Vancouver, B.C. The discounted rates for Alaskans (promo code “KJ”) runs on select dates between May 21 and Aug. 13. Cruise-only prices start at $229 per person, double occupancy for inside cabins. Outside cabins are priced from $349 per person, double. On top of all the cruise fares are port taxes and fees between $250-$275 per person.
Both the Noordam and Nieuw Amsterdam sail across the Gulf of Alaska. Stops include Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, plus scenic cruising in Glacier Bay National Park. Contact a cruise specialist, such as WMPH Travel at 800-201-6937 or Alaska and Yukon Tours in Juneau at 907-531-9140 to make reservations. Or, contact Holland America Line directly: 206-286-3900.
[Cruise industry expects to bring a record number of visitors to Alaska. It’s one of the signs that tourism will be strong this summer.]
Since the cruise includes a Canadian port, all travelers must ha a valid passport. To fly nonstop between Anchorage and Vancouver, fly with Air Canada, which offers daily nonstop flights for as little as $221 one-way.
High prices mean travelers have to be creative to save a few dollars between Alaska and the Lower 48 this summer, whether that means with a coupon, a cruise, a handful of miles — or all of the above!