Just like the Permanent Fund dividend itself, annual PFD airfare sales have gone through many different phases.
In the first days of the Permanent Fund payout, the checks were rather modest, but they grew quickly.
When MarkAir launched the first PFD travel deal, insiders did not expect it to be such a hit. But the offer for four tickets anywhere the airline flew struck a chord with Alaskan travelers.
Forty years later, MarkAir is long gone, along with Northwest Airlines, Continental Airlines and many other carriers.
But Alaska Airlines is still here — and the carrier is carrying on what has become an Alaska tradition: a big sale to encourage Alaskans to spend their PFD checks on airline tickets.
The deals have changed. Instead of four tickets anywhere they fly, Alaska Airlines is putting most of its routes on sale. All of Alaska’s jet destinations in the state (except Prudhoe Bay) have some nice deals to the Lower 48 right now. Plus, flights to Hawaii, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico.
From Kodiak, for example, the one-way price to Seattle was $295 last week. But now it’s $179 one-way. That’s a big drop.
A one-way ticket from Bethel to Los Angeles cost $309 last week. The new PFD deal is $229 one-way.
Travelers from Utqiagvik to Kotzebue to King Salmon will notice that all the rates went down to the Lower 48, to Hawaii, to Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica and Guatemala (after Dec. 14).
Fares dropped for travel to or from Anchorage and Fairbanks, too. But not by as much. Because Alaska Airlines and Delta continue to battle it out every day, particularly between Anchorage and Seattle, we get deals regularly. Still, travel is expensive, so it’s nice to save a few extra bucks on airline tickets.
If you want to take advantage of this year’s PFD deals on Alaska Airlines, purchase by Monday, Oct. 9. Travel through May 17, 2024. There are blackouts around Thanksgiving (Nov. 16-28), Christmas (Dec. 16-Jan. 7) and spring break (March 9-17).
My favorite bargains are on Alaska’s nonstops from Anchorage:
1. Anchorage-Seattle/Sea-Tac, $119 one-way for a Saver ticket. Add $30 each way for a Main Cabin ticket, which allows for full mileage credit, pre-assigned seats and a chance at the upgrade lottery. If you get a Saver ticket, you won’t get any upgrades and you’ll receive only 30% mileage credit.
2. Alaska’s daily nonstop from Anchorage to Everett’s Paine Field also is on sale for $119 each way. But Alaska is dropping that route after Jan. 7. The flights will resume May 16.
3. Daily nonstop flights from Anchorage to Portland are on sale for $129 one-way. Before the sale, Saver tickets were $156 one-way. Add $30 each way for Main Cabin.
4. Nonstop flights from Anchorage to Los Angeles cost $139 one-way for Saver tickets, down from $173 one-way.
5. Alaska Airlines flies nonstop from Anchorage to Phoenix for $139 one-way (Saver).
6. Alaska’s nonstop flights to Chicago are popular: $159 one-way. But Alaska’s daily flights ended in the summer. Now it’s just four days a week until mid-November, when it goes down to just weekend service. There’s scattered weekend service until mid-April of next year, then daily service resumes.
7. Alaska’s flights to Hawaii are priced at $169 one-way. That includes Honolulu, which enjoys daily nonstop service from Anchorage. Nonstops to both Maui and Kona start in mid-November. The cheapest tickets to the Neighbor Islands are more widely available after the first of the year. The upcharge to Main Cabin is $40 each way.
8. Alaska’s nonstop flights from Anchorage to Las Vegas run twice each week: on Fridays and Sundays. Prices start at $167 one-way, starting Oct. 22.
In addition to its nonstop flights, Alaska offers some good prices to key destinations throughout the Lower 48 with the PFD sale, including Anchorage-Denver for $179 one-way, Anchorage-Salt Lake for $159 and Anchorage-Fort Lauderdale for $199 one-way.
If you’re traveling this winter, it’s worth taking a moment to check Alaska’s prices.
Delta also is offering some PFD specials, but the airline is promoting them a little differently.
Delta isn’t even promoting its Basic Economy tickets. Buying Delta’s cheapest-of-the-cheap seats nets you zero frequent flyer credit and no pre-reserved seating options, and you’re the last to board.
Instead, Delta’s lead price for Anchorage-Phoenix and Anchorage-Los Angeles is $359 round-trip in Main. The airline’s Comfort+ seats with extra legroom cost more: $519 round-trip to LA or $579 to Phoenix.
Travelers have until Oct. 12 to purchase PFD tickets on Delta. Tickets to the East Coast from Anchorage start at $497 in Main Cabin. Flights to Puerto Vallarta and Cancun range from $527 to $586 round-trip in Main Cabin.
Alaska Airlines travelers who sign up for Club 49 get two checked bags free. Delta allows for two free checked bags if you’re a member of the airline’s frequent flyer program, SkyMiles. SkyMiles members also get free in-flight Wi-Fi. Alaska charges $8.
A couple of Delta’s fares are cheaper departing from Fairbanks. Flying to Seattle nonstop on Delta is $110 one-way (compared to $119 for Anchorage-Seattle). Also, Delta’s fare from Fairbanks to Detroit is $129 each way. From Anchorage, it’s $218 one-way.
From Anchorage, Delta is offering flights to a couple of destinations in Europe at good prices. These are not specifically PFD specials, but they still are good deals.
Fly from Anchorage to Lisbon, Portugal, for $625-$635 round-trip. That’s Delta’s Basic Economy fare. Travel through March 6. Spend an extra $170 per person to get one checked bag, frequent flyer credit and a pre-assigned seat.
Fly from Anchorage to London between Nov. 5 and March 28 for $668-$682 in Basic Economy. Add $170 per person for Main Cabin, which includes a checked bag, mileage credit and a pre-assigned seat.
Face it: Travelers in Anchorage and Fairbanks are lucky. Robust competition between Alaska Airlines and Delta keeps prices down. Both carriers are offering some extra discounts for the PFD sale. But the big beneficiaries of Alaska Airlines’ fare sale are those travelers in far-flung communities off the road system.