EXTRA: Alaska Airlines fare sale

In Alaska Travelgram, Travel Deals by scott

First, welcome to those of you who are used to reading my column in the Anchorage Daily News. I kinda miss the whole paper-and-ink deal. It’s part of my heritage. But in the meantime, I’ll do my level best to provide timely travel information directly to your email inbox.

The news at hand concerns Alaska Airlines. All of us were waiting for a fare sale–and it finally arrived. Sort of. Honestly, the fares are n-o-t-h-i-n-g to write home about. That said, the rates are lower than those available in the market. So, whine as I might ( a common trait) I probably will buy a couple of tickets this evening based on the new rates.

So–let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.

First, the good. This fare sale applies to many of Alaska’s most far-flung communities including Barrow, Dutch Harbor and Kodiak. And the sale applies to popular destinations for sun-starved Alaskans including Honolulu (daily service from Anchorage), Puerto Vallarta and other Mexican cities. Also, new destinations like Minneapolis/St. Paul also are on the discounted fare list. Make plans now for  travel  through June 10. Purchase no later than Jan. 24, 2009.

Since Alaska Airlines is the only jet carrier in many of these markets (Nome, Kotzebue, Kodiak, Barrow, etc.)  travelers must grab the bargains when they can. This is one of those times.  For example, between Barrow and Fairbanks, Alaska is asking $189 each way (before taxes and fees). And between Barrow and Seattle, the rate is $369 each way (plus tax). Go directly to Alaska’s page regarding the “Winter Clearance Sale” here.

Other out-of-the-way destinations where the fare sale applies include Adak, Dutch Harbor, Wrangell, Ketchikan and Yakutat.

Next, the bad. No travel is permitted Mar. 4-9 or Mar. 13-17. That effectively cuts out Spring Break for Alaskan students. I’ve already gotten a couple of emails from families who were hoping to save a few bucks on their Spring Break travel. No such luck. 

While we’re on the subject of bad news, it’s important to remember that Alaska Air no longer accepts actual cash money on their flights. You know–coin of the realm. Fuggetaboutit. Only credit cards are accepted. This applies to in-flight beverages, Dig-e-players and meals.

Luggage charges: Alaska lets you take one bag without charge. If you’re MVP Gold, you can check two bags for free. In fact, if you’re traveling solely within the state of Alaska, three bags are free-of-charge. Otherwise, you’ll pay for your second bag for $25, $100 for the third, etc. Plan accordingly. 

Finally, the ugly. These fares are less than the prevailing rates, that’s for sure. But travelers were expecting deeper cuts. Let’s be specific. Between Anchorage and Seattle, anything under $300 roundtrip is a good price. I’m not inclined to spend $456 for a quick trip to Seattle. That doesn’t say “spontaneous getaway” to me, particularly since jet fuel has come down in price. Between Anchorage and Los Angeles, $329-$398 roundtrip is a good price. This should not come as a surprise or as a shock,  since you can fly between Seattle and L.A. for $118 rt on Alaska Airlines. 

As an aside, I’m headed to Seattle on business later this month. I’ll pay $456 because Alaska Airlines treats me right. They have more flights. Plus, I’m hooked on their mileage plan. In my mind, they’re the best bet. Keep an eye on Continental Airlines, though. They offer two flights between Anchorage and Seattle each day–and the airline provides a competitive damper against rising fares in this market.

Alaska Airlines is trying to do the right thing–appealing to their passengers and their stockholders. In my opinion, Alaska Airlines is a better airline than Delta, Northwest or USAir.  So if the fare is the same on those other airlines, I’m probably going to book Alaska Air. In fact, most carriers have matched Alaska Air on routes where they compete. My bet is we’re going to see more fare sales in the days and weeks to come.

While we’re on the subject of Alaska Airlines, the carrier is ramping up its annual “Constituent Fare” discount program for Alaskans who have mileage plan accounts. Check the “My Discounts” section of your Alaskaair.com account page. That’s where you’ll find the $50 companion fare codes if you carry the Alaska Airlines Visa card (we have two of them). This is a one-time-only discount to travel to Juneau during the legislative session. I’ve used the discount several times myself. The discount code provides a 30pc discount off some of the short-term fares (3- or 7-day advance purchase rates). The idea is for Alaskans to use the discount to get down and see their legislators. It sort of subsidizes a “Citizen Lobbyist” movement. Do it this year! Heaven knows there are many important issues on the agenda this year! Stand by for discounts on Juneau hotels, too. We have a few favorites!

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