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Spring airfare deals for Alaskans linger long enough to tease, no more

Scott McMurren
Just a few days ago the Internet was teeming with airfare deals to and from Alaska -- roundtrip flights from Anchorage to California, Arizona, Texas, Philadelphia and beyond -- for under $400. By Saturday, the deals had disappeared. Loren Holmes photo

Everyone loves an air fare sale like the spontaneous travel bargains Alaskans got treated to this week. When the time came to update the list of roundtrip airfares under $400 from Anchorage to California, Texas and even the East Coast, it was a wash: Almost everything is different.

Remember those great rates between Anchorage and Philadelphia, as low as $331? United Airlines still had a late April ticket for as little as $386 roundtrip. But there are just three available dates between late-April and mid-May when a return seat is available from Philadelphia. The next best rates in April and May range from $416-$472 roundtrip on United.

How about Anchorage-San Francisco? Forget about those bargain seats for $358 roundtrip. Right now, flights in April average $560-$600 roundtrip. Only in May can you cobble something together via Phoenix for $476 roundtrip on USAirways.

Those great deals between Anchorage and Phoenix for $326 roundtrip? Gone. The new deal is $468 roundtrip on United or Delta Air during April and May.

How about Denver? The Anchorage-Denver fare last week was as low as $360 roundtrip. No more. Alaskans don't see any bargains to the Mile High City until Frontier Airlines starts flying nonstop in mid-May from both Anchorage and Fairbanks. Then the price drops back to $416 roundtrip for Anchorage-Denver and as low as $438 roundtrip for Fairbanks-Denver.

The fares to Boston changed, too, although good deals are still available into Logan Internatioanl. Gone are the $387 roundtrip rates between Anchorage and Boston. Now, the rates in April start at $482 roundtrip. In mid-May, you still can snag some seats for as little as $404 through early June on United.

Thankfully, other destinations along the West Coast still are selling at historic lows:

Anchorage-Los Angeles: $360 roundtrip from April 8 on Delta, dropping to $338 roundtrip on April 28 with Alaska Airlines.

Anchorage-Long Beach: $391 roundtrip between now and May 17, when jetBlue starts nonstop service from Anchorage for as little as $338 roundtrip.

Anchorage-Orange County, Calif.: $360 roundtrip on Delta, starting April 8.

Anchorage-Las Vegas, Nev.: Wait until mid-May, when jetBlue delivers a roundtrip fare for $376 roundtrip.

Anchorage-Sacramento: $398 roundtrip on Delta from April 8, dropping to $348 on jetBlue after May 19.

Anchorage-Seattle: $546 roundtrip on United until mid-May, when both Alaska and jetBlue offer rates as low as $276 roundtrip.

Looking beyond the Lower 48

On the international front, flights to Iceland still are a bargain: as low as $643 roundtrip from Anchorage to Reykjavik in May on Icelandair's new nonstop service.

Flights to Germany are a little more expensive this year: Anchorage-Frankfurt costs $962 roundtrip on Condor on flights that start on May 7.

What's the moral of this sad story? Many of the best air fare deals from Alaska tend to be the spoils of industry civil war. Commerical air travel is a fiercely competitive industry and the airlines make no pretense that the sudden rate drops are just signals, warning shots across the bow.

Think the airlines are in business to save you money? Or to make travel easier into and out of Alaska? Think again -- and next time fares drop like a rock, grab your plastic and act fast. Grab it!

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 or follow him on Twitter for breaking travel news.