It's been an interesting week on the Travel Planet. First, American Airlines goes bankrupt. Second, an impressive array of air fare discounts moves across the ticker. Third, I try and make peace with just 24 hours in Washington, DC amid an endless selection of "must-see" venues.
American Airlines is the only major "legacy" airline that has avoided a trip to Federal Bankruptcy Court. Until last week. A combination of hide-bound practices has brought the carrier, once the world's largest, to seek relief under Chapter 11 protection. The fallout to Alaska travelers is minimal, since American only flies up here during the summer. Of course, Alaska Airlines and American are mileage partners, so if you fly to the East Coast via Alaska's nonstop to Chicago, chances are good you'll connect to an American segment for the last flight.
If you've purchased a ticket that includes a flight segment on American, be sure and check the itinerary to make sure the airline hasn't suspended service or cancelled your specific flight. Most American Air itineraries for Alaskans would start with Alaska Airlines. In that case, it would fall on Alaska to rebook you. But you, as the traveler, may need to prompt them.
Be sure and take advantage of my favorite air fare deal-o'-the-day: Anchorage-Belize for $385 roundtrip, all in (including all taxes and fees). Fly on Delta Air Lines from Anchorage to Minneapolis, then on to Atlanta before catching the flight to Belize City. Travel during January and February of 2012. There is no specific "purchase by" date, but Delta could pull the fare at any time. Both Continental and United have the fare as well from Anchorage. But I like Delta's schedule better. And when you fly on Delta, you get Alaska Airlines miles.
While checking on the Belize rates, I stumbled on a couple of other great deals from Delta: Anchorage-Lima for $804 roundtrip all in. Or, further down the coast to Santiago, Chile for $959 roundtrip all in. By the way -- I do my best to quote air fares inclusive of all required taxes and fees. This is in sharp contrast to duplicitous airlines that feature only the one-way fare, even when the fees exceed the base fare.
The travel dates on the rates to these South American capitals are March-June 2012. And March is tricky because of Spring Break travel. Regardless, there are some select dates still available. These are good deals to South America. It's more than 15,000 miles roundtrip from Anchorage to Santiago.
Speaking of capital cities, I had the chance to visit Washington, DC for a single day last week. It was torturous to whittle down what to see and what to skip. In the end, we opted for a tour of the U.S. Capitol. Call your senator or congressman before your arrival in Washington for a personal tour. Josh Hufnagle in Sen. Lisa Murkowski's office took my cousin and I for a ride on the Senate's subway to the Capitol Building and gave us an historic briefing on "America's stage". Included in the tour is a visit to the old U.S. Supreme Court chambers on the lower level of the Capitol. The statuary is incredible: each state is allotted two statues for display. Alaska's two notables are Ernest Gruening and Bob Bartlett. Other statues include Andrew Jackson (Tennessee), Dwight Eisenhower (Kansas), Ronald Reagan (California) and Abraham Lincoln (Illinois).
The paintings in the Rotunda by John Trumbull are incredible. One depicts the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Another, the baptism of Pocahantas. There's the discovery of the Mississippi and the embarkation of the Pilgrims. Read up on your American history before you arrive. It is a moving experience. Depending on when you arrive, you may be able to sit in on a working session of the House or the Senate. We missed it on our visit.
If you're a news junkie, don't miss Newseum. It's a 10-minute walk from the Capitol and features an impressive display of Pulitzer Prize-winning photos, a huge array of front pages from papers around the world, exhibits of news history and lots of memorabilia. Also, there is a big section on freedom of the press, an active control room for live interviews and special sections on broadcast and online journalism. I was only able to spend an hour there--it's on my itinerary for my next visit.
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.