Competition drives down PFD airfare deals

The first round of Permanent Fund Dividend deposits are set to hit bank accounts Thursday, and travel deals are heating up as airlines compete for Alaska’s customers.

Download Audio

Scott McMurren is the publisher of Alaska Travelgram. And even though Alaska Airlines has been offering PFD discounts for years, he says this year’s deals are different.

“Delta was first out of the gate with their own version of the Permanent Fund Dividend airfares, and they’re great,” McMurren said.

During PFD season, Delta is offering round trip tickets between Anchorage and Seattle for $157. Alaska Airlines is offering fares on the same route for $198.

McMurren says the low fares can be largely attributed to increased competition for routes traditionally dominated by Alaska Airlines.

“This is the battle for Seattle,” he said. “And Delta is serious about it, and so is Alaska. And so, when the airlines are mad at each other, the traveler wins.”

Delta has added year-round service to Seattle from Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau – in direct competition with Alaska Airlines.

Overall, Delta’s PFD airfare deals are a little cheaper than Alaska Airlines. For example, a round trip ticket between Anchorage and Los Angeles is about $300 on Alaska, and around $240 on Delta.

But, McMurren says travelers should also keep mileage plan benefits in mind when perusing ticket options…and because Delta’s is based on how much money is spent on a ticket, he says it lags behind.

“You essentially get five miles for every dollar that you spend. So, for example, if you spend $200 on a round-trip ticket to Seattle, which is a good deal, you’ll get 1,000 miles, because 5×200,” McMurren said. “If you fly on Alaska Airlines, which is still a mileage based plan — which is my favorite way — you’ll get 1,448 miles each way to Seattle.”

That totals out to just under 2,900 miles for a round trip between Anchorage and Seattle….nearly three times as many miles as travelers would accumulate on a comparable ticket on Delta.