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Frugal Flyer: Rack up airfare deals with these 7 'mileage runs'

Scott McMurren

My friend Bart Parker loves to travel. Let me be more specific: He loves to travel first class. So much so, in fact, that from time to time he will pack up and fly across the country. On arrival, he'll enjoy a nice lunch at the airport before getting on the plane to come back home. It's called a Mileage Run. Many travelers do this to top off their frequent flyer plans each year and earn the coveted "elite status" for free upgrades, bonus miles and such.

Bart sent me a note the other day. He was excited about a new mileage-run destination: San Juan, Puerto Rico. Starting in late August, Delta Airlines is offering roundtrip tickets from Anchorage for as little as $567 roundtrip. Here's the kicker, though: you can fly up front in First Class for $854 roundtrip. That's a steal. If you're flying in coach, that's 9,800 miles. Bart is a big fan of Delta's frequent flyer program, Delta SkyMiles, because of Delta's worldwide network. Also, they have bigger planes and more first class seats (more upgrades!). But for most Alaskans using the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan those Delta miles count toward your MVP status, too. Miles earned on other Alaska-partnered airlines -- American Airlines and LAN Airlines of South America -- count as "partner miles" in Alaska's elite travel benefits tier.

Another mileage-run-worthy deal is Anchorage-Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for travel in late August. Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways have been battling all summer for Southern California traffic. As JetBlue's seasonal flights from Alaska draw to a close, airfares are dropping to $309 roundtrip. The best prices are available between Aug. 21 and Sept. 2, 2012. Round-trip travel will earn you 4,788 miles.

True mileage junkies: Consider Delta's one-way deal from Anchorage to Kona International Airport (via connections in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles). Fly Anchorage-Kona for $163 one-way this Nov. 11, 12 or 13 – that's a net gain of 5,229 miles. True, you'll be stuck on the Big Island since there really isn't a cheap way back home. Alaska offers a nonstop back to Anchorage on Nov. 18 for – gasp -- $574.

Late-summer travel bargains

There are plenty of other late summer Alaska travel deals in addition to these top-of-the-heap mileage run specials. Please remember: Airfares change in real time, all the time – and super-cheap flights sell out very quickly. For real-time updates on great travel deals follow Alaska Travel Gram on Twitter.

Let's review:

  • JetBlue's nonstops to Long Beach are available for as little as $307 roundtrip in late August. This doesn't qualify as "mileage run" unless you're a big-time JetBlue mileage junkie.
  • Frontier Airlines offers nonstop flights to Denver International Airport from both Anchorage and Fairbanks. Anchorage-Denver flights are averaging a reasonable $440 roundtrip. Fairbanks-Denver flights are available for as little as $237 for roundtrip travel from Aug. 24-Sept. 8, 2012. That's an awesome deal.

Alaska Airlines is upping the ante in its war with JetBlue for Southern California primacy by offering great deals to airports besides LAX and Long Beach.

  • Fly from Anchorage to John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange County for as little as $329 roundtrip (Aug. 21-Sept. 4). For a real chuckle, check the rates for returning to Anchorage on Sept. 5 – one day after JetBlue stops flying to Long Beach from Alaska.
  • Fly from Anchorage to LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT) for as little low as $349 roundtrip (Aug. 21-Sept. 2, 2012).
  • Fly from Anchorage to Bob Hope Airport (BUR) in Burbank for as low as $369 roundtrip (Aug.28-Sept. 4, 2012).

Other great deals:

  • Right now, JetBlue has the least-expensive fare between Anchorage and Las Vegas at just $403 roundtrip (Aug. 28-Sept. 1, 2012). By comparison, Alaska Airlines will begin offering a $467 roundtrip airfare from Anchorage-Los Vegas in August that's available into 2013.
  • United Airlines is offering a $457 roundtrip fare to Portland from Anchorage during the month of October. Compare that to Alaska's $617 roundtrip Portland fare. United's deal includes a stop and plane change in Seattle.
  • United is offering the best deal from Alaska to the East Coast with a $478 roundtrip Anchorage-Boston flight during September and October 2012. Compare that to Alaska's $689 roundtrip fare.
  • Don't miss out on the late-season deals with Condor Airlines to Germany. Nonstop flights from Anchorage to Frankfurt run until Oct. 9, 2012. Fly from Anchorage to Frankfurt on Oct. 2, returning on Oct. 9, 2012 for $858 roundtrip.

Need more info? Check Flyer Talk. It's one of the best online forums for tracking late-breaking air fare deals and mileage run possibilities. 

Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based travel marketing consultant who has lived in Alaska for three decades, spending much of that time traveling the far-flung corners of the state. Visit his website at www.alaskatravelgram.com. And follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/alaskatravelgrm for breaking updates.