Alaskans have grown up with the Permanent Fund dividend — and with the travel deals that accompany the annual payout.
This year is no different, other than the PFD checks are distributed a couple of weeks early.
The big bargains are coming from Alaska Airlines. But this year, for the first time, Delta is rolling out discounts from all three of its year-round Alaska gateways: Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. Delta offers flights from Juneau only on Saturdays and Sundays through the winter.
Alaska Air, for its part, is offering sale prices from all of its jet ports, except Prudhoe Bay. In addition to offering bargains on flights to the Lower 48, Alaska is offering discounted fares for in-state travel. From Kotzebue to Anchorage is $126 one-way. From Fairbanks to Bethel is $164 one-way.
Delta is offering discounted fares to most, but not all, of its destinations in the Lower 48. From Rochester, New York, to Birmingham, Alabama to Duluth, Minnesota, Delta is offering a PFD fare.
Whether you’re flying on Delta or Alaska, you have to plan at least 21 days in advance. That’s really not an issue, though, since many of the destinations don’t have availability until early December.
Many travelers are ready for airfares to come down from the dizzying summertime prices. Checking on PFD fares from both carriers, there’s some good, some bad and some ugly features.
Alaska Airlines is resuming its nonstop flights to Hawaii from Anchorage. The nonstop to Honolulu starts on Nov. 18, but prices are high until Jan. 9, 2023 when tickets are available for as little as $177 one-way.
Alaska’s Anchorage-Maui nonstop resumes in mid-December. But the deals roll out as Alaska Air introduces daily service on Jan. 9. The tickets are priced low: $159 each way.
Alaska Air also is flying nonstop every day from Anchorage to Kona between Jan. 9 and Mar. 16. The PFD special is $159 each way.
Delta’s twice-weekly flights between Juneau and Seattle this winter are enough to keep a damper on prices. The airline is charging $79 each way between Juneau and Seattle. But Juneau travelers can fly all the way to New York for $165 each way. Or to Phoenix for $140 each way.
Delta’s single daily flight between Fairbanks and Seattle also keeps prices down all winter in the Golden Heart City. Many fares, such as Fairbanks-Seattle for $99 each way, are the same as Anchorage rates. That’s a win for Fairbanks travelers, who are accustomed to paying much more for air travel. Another “common-rated” destination is San Jose del Cabo at the tip of Baja California. Whether you leave from Anchorage or Fairbanks on Alaska Airlines, the prices start at just $199 each way. The return flights cost more: from $249 one-way.
Alaska Airlines is bringing extra firepower to its PFD sale this year. The airline is giving away a couple of Holland America cruises (including airfare), as well as two sets of Alaska Air tickets in a PFD Sweepstakes. No purchase is necessary.
Delta resumed its two-bags-free offer for Alaska residents. To qualify, you have to be a SkyMiles member at least 24 hours prior to check-in.
With both Delta and Alaska offering PFD fares, there are good deals to lots of towns that aren’t normally on sale. This includes Alaska’s PFD offers to all its destinations in Alaska (except Prudhoe Bay and seasonal service to Gustavus). For Delta, it includes destinations like Des Moines, Iowa, Fargo, N.D., Memphis, Tennessee, Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Charlotte, N.C.
When you’re searching for a good deal, be aware of the connection time. Airlines will display fares that have two stops, or include 8-hour layovers. For example, on Nov. 1, Delta offers a flight from Anchorage to L.A. for $158 one-way. Alaska offers the same fare, but there’s an eight-hour layover in Seattle.
All the prices quoted here are for “Saver” tickets of “Basic Economy” on Delta. That means you cannot change your ticket. Pre-assigned seats are very rare on Alaska Air and specifically not included with Delta. On Delta, you won’t earn SkyMiles credit with Basic flights. The upcharge to “Main Cabin” is between $30 and $60 each way.
Delta is not offering a PFD special to three of its most-popular hubs: Atlanta, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City. But Alaska is offering promo fares to those cities. Delta is offering a nice fare of $198 one-way between Anchorage and Detroit.
Blackouts. You cannot find a PFD fare at Thanksgiving, Christmas or Spring Break. Those flights typically are full of schoolkids, their parents and their teachers.
Alaska Air’s blackout dates are comprehensive: Nov. 17-28 (Thanksgiving), Dec. 15-Jan. 8, 2023 (Christmas) and March 10-21, 2023 (Spring Break).
Delta’s list of blackout dates is more complicated: Nov. 18-29, Dec. 16-18, 20-24 and Dec. 26-Jan. 3, 2023. Feb. 16-17, 20. March 3-6, 9-13, 16-20, 23-27 and March 30-April 3. April 6-10, 13-16, 21-23.
There are other important facts about the PFD sale. All tickets must be purchased by Sept. 29. All travel must be completed by May 17, 2023 for Alaska Air destinations. Some Delta destinations end earlier than that, though. For example, travel on Delta to Memphis is available for $198 one-way and travel must be completed by March 8, 2023.
Between Alaska and most destinations in the Lower 48, the cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.
Prices and restrictions change without notice. They’ve already changed since they were introduced earlier this week. They are likely to change again before the sale ends on Sept. 29.