It soon will be easier and cheaper to fly between Seattle and California, with Virgin America beginning new cut-rate service to San Francisco...

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It soon will be easier and cheaper to fly between Seattle and California, with Virgin America beginning new cut-rate service to San Francisco on March 18 and an announcement Wednesday by Alaska Airlines that it will increase service between the two states.

Alaska will add five new flights to its California schedule. Starting April 27, it will offer 15 daily round trips between Seattle and Los Angeles on weekdays, three more than it now has. The LA-bound flights will depart on the hour and return on the half-hour. The airline will also add a daily weekday flight between Seattle and Orange County and increase its daily round trips to San Diego from seven to eight in June. Frequent fliers will earn double miles on the Seattle-LA and Seattle-San Francisco flights for most of 2008. Details are at www.alaskaair.com.

The changes come on the heels of new competition for Alaska. Virgin America begins service March 18 between Seattle and San Francisco International Airport with three daily nonstops. The airline plans to add three daily nonstops between Sea-Tac and Los Angeles International on April 8 and a fourth on May 11.

Alaska and other airlines are attempting to match Virgin’s low fares in most cases. For travel over the weekend of April 18, for instance, Alaska matched Virgin’s round-trip fare of $175, including taxes, between Seattle and San Francisco, and Alaska, United, Delta and Northwest matched its $219 fare between Seattle and Los Angeles.

Virgin, an offshoot of British entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airlines, beat the competition in some instances. For travel between Seattle and San Francisco over the weekend of April 4, it was quoting $175 compared with $219 on Alaska and United Airlines.

Carol Pucci: cpucci@seattletimes.com