Lawmakers say cheaper fares help

Posted: Monday, January 08, 2001

Alaska Airlines again will offer discounted "constituent" fares to Alaska residents for travel to Juneau during the legislative session.

It's the third year for the program, which was pushed by the Alaska Committee, a local group working to promote Juneau as Alaska's capital city.

Constituent fares were used by 1,294 people in 1999 and 1,278 last year, about three-quarters of whom were from Anchorage, according to the airline.

The carrier estimated about a quarter of the constituent fare users in 1999 were new visitors to Juneau, said Win Gruening, chairman of the Alaska Committee. The rest would have come anyway, using a full-price ticket.

"Last year we got quite a few people down here using those (fares) who otherwise would not have come down here," said Rep. Richard Foster, a Nome Democrat, from his Capitol office today.

Foster said he's paid $1,050 to fly from Juneau to Nome and back, compared with the $399 round-trip constituent fare.

"I would say it's a real important thing that Alaska Airlines is doing," Foster said.

Gruening said the Alaska Committee works with Alaska Airlines to structure the discounted fares. The group pushed to increase the number of days users could travel on the discounted fare last year, and to keep this year's fares at the same rate as last year's.

The fare from Cordova and Southeast cities is $159; from Anchorage, $199; from Fairbanks, $299; and from Southwestern and Western Alaska cities, $399. The average discount in 1999 was 48 percent from fares that otherwise would have applied, the airline said.

The city has contributed about $27,000 a year to publicize the fares, and expects to continue to do so, said City Manager Dave Palmer.

"We pay for the promotion. Our interest is getting the word out to people," he said.

The Alaska Committee also helps to publicize the fares by talking to legislators, through a radio program in Anchorage and at the Tanana State Fair, Gruening said.

That's important "so people realize we're making the effort to improve access to the capital," he said.

The fare helps "big-time," said Rep. Reggie Joule, a Democrat from Kotzebue, whose constituents might otherwise pay about $1,000 to get to and from Juneau.

"People from home were taking advantage of it, and I'm sure they're relieved to hear it's continued," he said. The only drawback is the restrictions on when users can travel, he said.

The discounted fares are available by using a coupon distributed to the roughly 200,000 members of Alaska Airlines' mileage plan. That's so the coupons are tied to particular passengers and can't be resold on a black market, said airlines spokesman Jack Evans.

Each coupon is good for one round-trip flight to Juneau between Jan. 6 and May 10. The legislative session runs Jan. 8 to May 8. Juneau residents aren't eligible because the program is intended to help constituents meet with legislators.

Coupons must be presented at the time of ticketing. Travel is allowed to Juneau on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Travel from Juneau is permitted on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.



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