The holidays are over and the credit card bills are trickling in. That's one reason the first quarter is a slow one for airlines. In competitive markets, airlines cut fares to fill the seats since the planes are flying anyway. That's good news for travelers in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.
Fares are dropping to many destinations starting at the beginning of February.
From Anchorage to Seattle, the best fare is $253 round-trip on either Alaska Airlines or Delta. To get that rate, you have to purchase your ticket 21 days in advance. Right now, this rate is available for travel through the end of April. From Fairbanks to Seattle, the rate is a little higher — but not much: $264 round-trip on either Alaska Airlines of Delta. Again, a 21-day advance purchase is required. From Juneau to Seattle, the rate just dropped a bit to $228 round-trip, with a 14-day advance purchase required on either Alaska or Delta.
Beyond Seattle, there are plenty of deals. Sometimes, though, it might be worth it to pay a little more for a better schedule. Between Anchorage and Portland, Delta has a great fare of $280 round-trip, valid for travel between early February and mid-March. But you have to change planes in Seattle. Alaska Airlines offers a nonstop flight for $307 round-trip for travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. So, is it worth an extra $27 to fly nonstop? These are questions that airline "yield managers" discuss at their meetings.
Between Anchorage and Las Vegas, travelers have a similar choice: pay $292 on Delta, with a change of planes in Seattle. Or, fly nonstop on Alaska Air for $11 more ($303 round-trip on Sundays, Thursdays and Fridays). Oh -- those Anchorage-Las Vegas nonstops? They're red-eyes in both directions. The southbound flight leaves at 11:05 p.m., arriving bright and early at 5:14 a.m. the next day. The return? Alaska Flight 111 departs at 11:55 p.m. for Anchorage, arriving at 4:30 a.m.
Alaska Airlines also offers a nonstop from Anchorage to Los Angeles, priced at just $307 round-trip through Feb. 25. That's just a little more than Delta's offer of $273 round-trip, but you have to change planes in Seattle.
Here are some other great deals for travel this winter:
Anchorage-Phoenix: $293 round-trip on Alaska's nonstop flights in February. The flights leave on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays
Anchorage-Sacramento: $300 round-trip on either Delta or Alaska in February, March and April
Anchorage-San Francisco: $316 round-trip on either Delta or Alaska through April 30
Anchorage-Austin, Texas: $340 round-trip on United, with a change of planes in Denver, through April 30
Anchorage-Kansas City: $412 round-trip on Alaska, Delta or United. This fare is available for travel through April 30
Anchorage-Orlando: $430 round-trip on either Delta or United through April 30
Anchorage-Boston: $370 round-trip on Delta or United through April 25
Fairbanks-Las Vegas: $311 round-trip on Alaska through April 30, connecting with the Anchorage-Las Vegas flights on Sundays. Thursdays and Fridays
Fairbanks-San Francisco: $333 round-trip on Alaska through April 30
Fairbanks-New York/JFK: $465 round-trip on Delta through March 10
Juneau-Portland: $254 round-trip on Delta through April 30, after which the fare goes up to $264 round-trip
Juneau-Los Angeles: $270 round-trip on either Alaska or Delta through April 30
Juneau-San Francisco: $317 round-trip on Delta through April 30 (Alaska charges $343 round-trip)
Juneau-Las Vegas: $292 round-trip on either Alaska or Delta through April 30
Juneau-Boston: $380 round-trip on Delta through March 8
Fares always are subject to change without notice. In fact, I had a whole bunch of international fares to share this week … until they went away. That's the nature of special airfares these days. Some are meant for public consumption, while others are best categorized as "attack fares" between airlines.
A couple of notes on Juneau flights: First, Delta upgraded its service from a regional jet to a full-size Boeing 737-800 for its single flight to Seattle. But it's also cut back on the days it operates. Between now and March 5, Delta will not operate its southbound flight on Sunday or Wednesday (or its northbound flights on Saturdays and Tuesdays). The Sunday flight comes back on March 6, with Wednesday flights returning on May 4.
If you live in Juneau, you know the travel landscape is changing. There are lower fares and more options. And there are secrets on how to get the best deals. I'm hosting a seminar on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at KTOO's studio called "Travel Secrets: Revealed." I've had several events in Anchorage and have received requests to hold one in Juneau. It's going to be a fun event with pizza from The Island Pub and plenty of travel prizes. Tickets are $25. Learn more at is.gd/SG1olX?.
Google's ITA Software Matrix Airfare Search tool: This is a great tool to get the specifics on flights and airfares. You can't purchase tickets from the site, but it gives you the flight information so you can book it yourself or give it to a travel agent. (matrix.itasoftware.com)
Google Flights: This site is more user-friendly and responds much more quickly than the ITA site. Also, there's a nice map feature where you can poke around to see where the deals are. I like it. But it doesn't always offer the best fares — and I'm not sure why. Often, I have to revert to the ITA site to find the best rates. Still, it's a handy resource. (google.com/flights)
Kayak: I am not a big fan of Kayak's side-by-side display with several different vendors. But I do like their map, which you can access here: kayak.com/explore. Depending on your computer settings, it may auto-detect Anchorage, or you may have to type in your home airport. You can sort by when you want to travel (month or season) and how much you want to spend. You can even click the "find flights" button to show you the actual flights and times. Again, it doesn't always show the best rates — and sometimes it displays fares that are not valid. But it's getting better.
The Flight Deal: I love this site for many reasons. Oh, they also provide a daily email of the best deals. It's rare to see Anchorage featured on the list (this week they had Anchorage-Philadelphia on Delta for $426 round-trip). But you can read the list and see the areas where specific airlines are targeting. From there, you can check to see if there is a corresponding fare from Anchorage. Earlier this week, for example, the site featured some great fares from Seattle to Africa and India on Emirates. In fact, Alaska was included on the sale (from Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau). Those fares are gone now, but there are some great deals that pop up regularly. (theflightdeal.com)
SecretFlying.com: This is a pretty website with some great deals. Again, it's rare to see Alaska flights mentioned here, but you can connect the dots and put together some great itineraries. (secretflying.com)
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 email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram.com/about.