Kerribeth Bahr, an aircraft mechanic who lives in Palmer, has an unmissable trip to Omaha next week. She’s visiting friends she served in the military with, who she hasn’t seen in about 10 years. One of them is traveling from Australia to be there.
“Normally, I can book the whole trip for about $700 or $800,” she said. “But I couldn’t find anything one way under $900.”
Bahr played around with different flight combinations using a mix of miles and money when she was booking about a month ago. She finally settled on a flight leaving Anchorage at 3 a.m. to save on cost.
“It’s just frustrating. Really expensive. I used almost all my miles. I had 100,000 miles and I used almost all of it just on that trip,” she said.
Fares are way up for everyone, according to Scott McMurren, an Alaska travel writer and author of the Alaska Travelgram newsletter. He said part of the reason prices feel high is that they’ve been unusually low for more than two years while the pandemic curbed plane travel.
“And so now when you see $600 or $700 to Seattle, people start coming out of their skin,” he said.
Just a few months ago, McMurren was blogging about one-way flights from Anchorage to New York City that cost less than $100. Looking ahead to Memorial Day weekend, one-way flights from Anchorage to Seattle start at around $400. Coming back, McMurren said, travelers are looking at eye-popping fares that will set you back as much as $1,000.
“There’s a lot of demand right now, and so that’s pushing up the prices,” said McMurren. “The price of gas is going through the roof, and so that’s reflected also in the air prices.”
In fact, the price of jet fuel has doubled in the last year, according to a price index published by the International Air Transport Association.
Alaska Airlines spokesperson Tim Thompson said in an email that airfare pricing is determined by several factors, including “available capacity, demand and fuel prices.” He said the company is seeing “near pre-pandemic passenger demand” right now.
Thompson said a recent pilot shortage, which has resulted in a reduced flight schedule through June, is “not a factor” driving up fares.
Delta Air Lines, which also flies nonstop between Anchorage and Seattle, did not respond to a request for comment.
But while fares are jumping in most places, there’s at least one area where they’re going down. Routes between Seattle and Southeast Alaska are cheaper this summer because of new competition from Delta Air Lines, which confirmed earlier this month it’s bringing back year-round service to Juneau.
While prices remain high, Bahr, the aircraft mechanic, is rethinking the rest of her summer travel.
“I’m supposed to go down to Texas in July and I don’t know if I’m really going to make that trip happen,” she said. “I haven’t even looked at tickets yet for that but I know it’s going to be insanely expensive.”
Other Alaskans are feeling the pinch, too. On Twitter, some shared stories of sky-high prices they encountered when booking summer flights.
McMurren recommends taking advantage of Alaska Airlines’ companion fares and using up any miles you’ve got stashed, until fuel prices and summer demand come down.