After a few days in Seattle it was time to head down to San Francisco as a friend was having his 40th birthday party there. I’d flown up with United as part of an award ticket and was pretty underwhelmed by the experience.
All of my friends who live in Seattle without exception raved about Alaska Airlines, who rather confusingly are actually based in Seattle, rather than in Anchorage.
Jumping onto their website I looked at fares and they were selling one-way flights in domestic first class for $175 one way. Economy fares were running at $99 one way, and I’d have had to spend $25 to check a bag on top of that. Plus lounge access would have been a further $50, so felt it was wash overall. Alaska are the only US airline that I’m aware of that give lounge access on paid, domestic first class tickets.
I took the light rail from downtown Seattle to SeaTac airport, a journey that takes about 45 minutes. Services are pretty frequent and it’s a really easy way to get to and from the airport, albeit not as quick as driving. Arriving at the airport, it’s about a good five minute walk from the station to the check-in area. You arrive at the northern end of the terminal and it’s full of kiosks to print your bag tag; having already checked in online and having a passbook boarding pass, I started the process which was very simple. All I needed to do was get the machine to scan my passbook boarding pass, and after a few more taps, a bag tag was spat out of the machine. My bag was tagged and I walked around to the bag drop area where there was a short queue. My ID and boarding pass were checked and the agent took a photo of my bag tag on her PDA device and the bag was gone. Very easy.
After that I went through security – the TSA PreCheck line wasn’t too long and about five minutes later I was airside. SeaTac has a pretty good food court area, so being about lunchtime went to grab something. They appeared to also have some live music on at the time too.
Alaska have recently opened a new lounge in the C gates area of the terminal, so decided to head over there to check it out.
The agent scanned my boarding pass and welcomed me in. It was nice, but quite small, however had everything you’d need. There was a proper beans to cup coffee machine, a full bar and some snacks. There was also a great view of the tarmac and a full bar at the end too. Perfectly acceptable place to wait for thirty minutes or so.
I wasn’t there for terribly long before it was time to head to the gate and board the 737-800 bound for San Francisco. First class was called and after a few minutes was settled into 2A.
Compared to the AA 737-800 domestic seat, the leg-room seemed a lot better. They were big, comfy leather seats that also had two AC power sockets available between the arm rests.
After boarding was complete, Emilie who was the senior cabin crew on board introduced herself to the first class cabin and explained that we’d be getting an antipasti plate as our snack on the flight.
We then pushed back and after a relatively long taxi due to a lot of aircraft waiting to take off, we were airborne.
The antipasti plate was actually pretty good for airline catering; certainly better than the pre-packaged snack boxes their competitors offer. The gin and tonics were also great, however as you can see from the photo, they “borrowed” an American Airlines branded glass!
The flight itself was uneventful except for some outstanding views out of the window. Firstly this appeared to be some kind of volcano or major fire en route.
After that, due to the clear weather the approach to the Bay Area was equally spectacular.
A few minutes later we were on the ground and taxied to a gate at the international terminal.
I had to wait for a bag, and Alaska have a very customer friendly baggage delivery policy. If they don’t arrive within 20 minutes, you’ll get either a $25 credit or 2,500 miles. Unfortunately my bags arrived 22 minutes after the aircraft landed so I’ll be claiming for the miles. I’ll report back on how it went! However, that said, it’s still pretty quick to get bags out of the hold and beat the wait at my United flight on the way up to Seattle.
Overall, for a domestic US airline, I was quietly impressed with Alaska. They seem to have some good technology, a nice product and caring staff. The big minus is no global alliance membership meaning that for the occasional use I would give them, I would have a less smooth journey than flying with a partner where I have status. That said, if I were based in Seattle or another location of theirs that has frequent service, they’re a no-brainer compared to the competition.