Ask anyone traveling during a pandemic, and they will tell you that the travel experience is changing.
This is a simplification, but an accurate description. It’s not just flights that are the most expensive. Nor is it the shortage of rental cars. It’s not fair to blame vaccination requirements and hide mandates either. Instead, all of these things happen simultaneously.
For my Friday morning flight, I was looking forward to seeing what the airport would look like in the new “Masks Optional” mode. By my count, less than 10% of people at the airport were wearing masks.
At the gate, just before boarding, Alaska Airlines canceled the flight. There was no pilot flying the plane. Luckily the staff at the gate rebooked me for the next flight 90 minutes later.
While planning my last minute trip to Fairbanks on Thursday night, getting a rental car was a challenge. I finally found a brand new Jeep Cherokee at Alaska 4×4 Rentals. The cost was almost the same as my airline ticket. And my last minute ticket was very expensive.
Shock and awe at pricing and availability are certainly not limited to Alaskan cities. But it’s tough here. Airlines are having a tough time hiring due to the increased demand for travel. Some airlines are cutting flights. Car rental companies are still unable to find enough cars.
“I could use an additional 400-500 cars here in Anchorage: Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty,” said Gary Zimmerman, general manager of three rental car brands in Anchorage.
If you can’t find a hotel room, it may not mean that every room is booked. Alternatively, there may not be enough staff to clean the rooms.
Considering US travel prices, prices are high and availability is limited. I think reports that air prices have gone up 40% in recent months are an oversimplification. But just about everything costs more – and the prices keep going up.
Just last month, it was easy to find a ticket from Anchorage to New York for $111 one way. Earlier this year, prices were hovering around $103 one way.
If you want to travel in late June, United has a daily non-stop flight, priced around $1,023 round trip. Alaska Airlines offers one-stop service through Seattle for $851 round trip.
Renting a car in Newark isn’t cheap either. A two-day weekend rental costs about $228. Midweek rent for a day costs more: about $199 per day. To check car rental rates, I used the Costco car rental search engine. You have to be a member to book it, but I found it to be a reliable resource.
Are you traveling to Chicago? Last month, I found $127 one-way tickets on non-stop flights with United and Alaska Airlines. For travel in late June, Alaska offers a one-stop service for $561 round trip. United flights nonstop $608 round trip. For the sake of comparison, I chose a departure on June 29th for a one-week stay. Prices vary – which means they may cost much more, but not much less.
To rent a car over the weekend, the cost was $273 for two days. With Costco’s search engine, you’ll find four distinct companies: Avis, Budget, Alamo, and Enterprise. These are really only two companies, because Avis and Budget are owned by the same company. The Alamo is owned by Enterprise, which also owns National.
For Denver, prices have been hovering around $149 one way for most of the winter. But travel in late June will cost more: $563 round-trip in Delta, via Seattle or Salt Lake. Alaska Airlines has non-stop flight: $638, round trip. A two-day car rental costs approximately $273, round trip.
Between Anchorage and San Francisco, United and Alaska both offer non-stop summer cruises. It’s more expensive than all-inclusive this summer. During most of the winter, single-stop flights were selling for $139 one way. Travel in June costs more: $460 round trip on Delta via Seattle, or nonstop on Alaska Airlines for $556 round trip. Cars cost more, too: about $314 for a two-day weekend rental.
Even Seattle prices are rising. Last month, the prevailing price was $99 one way in either Alaska or Delta. This price doubles if you’re traveling in late June. I couldn’t find a single car for rent in late June on Costco. So I went to Hertz and found a two day rental for $398.
The price hike on regular flights is one thing. It’s another thing when flights are canceled. This happens on both domestic and international carriers.
Iceland Air has canceled its Anchorage Reykjavik schedule altogether. But other international airlines are canceling flights, too. Eurowings Discover, a Lufthansa subsidiary, has scheduled three flights per week from Anchorage to Frankfurt from June 1. But now, the first flight is June 13th.
Condor Airlines will also operate Anchorage – Frankfurt flights starting May 21. But the company canceled the first two flights on Sunday, May 22 and 29.
Flyer Airlines, Canada’s ultra-low-cost airline, was scheduled to begin flying to Vancouver, British Columbia, on May 20. But the carrier delayed the launch by more than a month, until June 24.
Alaska Airlines is shrinking its schedule to several destinations. This Anchorage-Salt Lake daily non-stop flight was supposed to go on June 17th. Now the first flight will be on June 18, but it will only operate once a week during the summer.
Alaska’s daily non-stop service was supposed to fly from Anchorage to Minneapolis on the same day, June 17. But now Alaska flights only run Saturday and Sunday until July 1, when daily service begins.
Schedule changes and cancellations happen all the time. But these changes are last-minute, caused in part by a shortage of labor, the pandemic, and increased demand and fuel prices. As scheduled flights are cancelled, it adds further upward pressure on remaining flight prices.
My rescheduled trip to Fairbanks was a success – and it’s beautiful here in the city of Golden Heart. I’m not really bothered about my original flight being canceled either. I received a note saying that the pilot’s wife went into labor at the last minute, which is why he called.