Sure, summer's just started. So is it wrong to talk about late-summer and Christmas holiday specials with the airlines? Sure, because if you have a big trip on your holiday wish list, right now might be the time to buy your ticket.
Because of the fight between Alaska Airlines and Delta, the early-season deals lasted longer and there hasn't been much of a bump for peak-season travel. And by "peak season," I mean July. On Aug. 3, Delta is putting seats on sale to Seattle from all five of its Alaska gateways: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan.
Below are some of my favorite late-summer and holiday fares. Remember, fares change all the time. The cheapest seats are not available on every flight. For example, between Anchorage and Seattle, the cheapest flights are the red-eye departures.
Anchorage-Seattle: $189 round trip starting Aug. 3 on JetBlue, Delta and Alaska. Actually, there are just a few days in July when tickets cost more than $200 round trip. In fact, you can fly all the way up to Christmas Day for $197 round trip on Alaska or Delta. Then things change. Traveling from Anchorage to Seattle on Saturday, Dec. 19, returning on Saturday, Jan. 2, Alaska Airlines charges $973 round trip. How about Delta? Their price is $552 round trip. This is war, folks.
Anchorage-Portland: The price to the Rose City drops to $197 round trip on June 18, when JetBlue starts its seasonal nonstop from Anchorage. There are some late-season deals for just $177 round trip between Aug. 26 and Sept. 13, the last day of the JetBlue service. Beyond that, the price levels out at $214 round trip on Delta, including departures during the peak Christmas travel season. Alaska charges more than Delta after Sept. 14: $326 round trip (nonstop). The best peak-season price I could find on Alaska Air was Dec. 20-Jan. 1 for $421 round trip.
Anchorage-Los Angeles: Delta and Alaska have kept the price down to Southern California all year. JetBlue's nonstop service from Anchorage to Long Beach also helps to keep the price down. On Aug. 4, Delta drops the rate to $264 round trip. Alaska Air charges $359 round trip (nonstop) starting Aug. 5. During the peak Christmas travel dates (Dec. 19-Jan. 3), Delta charges $406 round trip. On the same dates (Dec. 19-Jan. 3), Alaska is charging $972 round trip.
Anchorage-Las Vegas: Both Delta and Alaska are offering $280 round-trip tickets in August. Delta starts on Aug. 3, while Alaska starts on Aug. 10.
From Fairbanks to Los Angeles, Delta is charging $266 round trip starting on Aug. 3. Alaska Air is charging $396 round trip starting on Aug. 10. Do you want to visit Southern California at Christmastime? Delta will charge $301 round trip even during peak travel dates. Alaska charges more than twice as much.
Between Fairbanks and Seattle, Delta and Alaska are charging $190 round trip in August. Delta starts on Aug. 3, Alaska starts on Aug. 7. Do you want to travel at Christmas? Pick your dates during the peak holiday dates: Dec. 18, 19 or 20, returning Jan. 1, 2 or 3: just $190 round trip on Delta. Alaska charges more: fly Alaska from Fairbanks to Seattle on Sunday, Dec. 20, returning on Friday, Jan 1, for $613 round trip. Remember: Fares are subject to change without notice.
Between Juneau and Seattle, both Alaska and Delta are charging $191 round trip all summer long. Actually, Delta also charges $191 during the peak Christmas travel period (departing Dec. 18, 19 or 20; returning Jan. 1, 2 or 3) while Alaska Air charges much, much more. You still can fly for $190 round trip in December with Alaska, but you have to leave on Dec. 8, returning on Dec. 31.
Between Juneau and San Diego, Delta charges $299 round trip starting on Aug. 3. Alaska Air charges $358 round trip, starting on Aug. 20. During the peak Christmas travel season, Delta charges $341 round trip. Alaska Air? Uh … much, much more.
Why the price disparity among airlines for peak-season flights? Alaska Air has served the state forever and holiday travelers are used to booking the peak dates a year in advance using both cash and frequent-flier miles. This includes teachers, schoolkids and their parents. Now comes Delta with new flights and an expanded schedule. This is the first year Delta is offering flights to Juneau and Fairbanks during the holidays -- so there still are plenty of seats. But as early bookers get the cheap seats, those prices will go up, up, up.
Just as much of Alaska is a new market for Delta, Costa Rica is a new market for Alaska Airlines (Delta has flown there for years). After securing government approval for new nonstops between Los Angeles and Costa Rica, Alaska now is selling tickets.
From LAX, the tickets cost $249 each way. From Anchorage, the rates start at $369 each way. But it's the seamless schedules that are impressive. Alaska's overnight nonstops from Anchorage to Los Angeles line up perfectly with the new flights to Costa Rica. You must purchase the introductory fares by June 17.
Flights from LA to Liberia, Costa Rica (in the northwest part of the country), operate on Mondays and Wednesdays, returning on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Flights from LA to the country's capital city, San Jose, operate on Sundays and Tuesdays, returning on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Flights to Liberia start on Oct. 31. The inaugural flight to San Jose, Costa Rica, is the next day, Nov. 1.
If you want to use your Alaska Airlines frequent-flier award miles, tickets from Anchorage to Costa Rica are available for as little as 35,000 miles in coach (plus $54 in taxes). Additionally, there are some Costa Rica taxes that must be paid at the airport, about $30 per person.