Being born and raised in Seattle, Alaska Airlines will always hold a special place in my heart. I don’t know what it is about the little airline that can, but their amazing customer service, great frequent flyer program, dedicated HAPPY employees, and simple all Boeing 737 fleet just warms my heart. Not to mention, I cannot recall ever having a bad experience on Alaska. So once again, when it was time to take my partner to Hawaii for his first time, I opted to fly Alaska Air as I knew the experience would be top notch. To book this flight I transferred American Express Membership reward points to my FlyingBlue account and then booked two separate first class tickets; as I was starting in Sacramento and my partner was flying from LAX. I flew Sacramento-LAX-Seattle on Delta connection, overnighted in Seattle and continued to Hawaii 20 hours later on Alaska. My partner flew the same route and plane as I did from LAX-SEA-HNL. The long layover in Seattle allowed us to take care of some business in Seattle and was added to our tickets at no extra charge. I booked these tickets over the phone with the FlyingBlue North America call center located in Canada and was charged 27,000 miles per ticket + $6 in taxes and fees. I did not experience any long wait times with this call center, but the team did not want to initially look for Alaska Air space (as it cannot be booked online) nor did they want to route me along my requested routes. Yet after being disconnected twice, the third agent was able to book my circuitous routing, but only after checking with ticketing and putting me on hold for about 20 minutes. (To check Alaska’s award space, check to see if their partner’s website Delta or America show the space available. If they do, then Air France should be able to book the same ticket) Either way, I was excited to book this ticket for so cheap, as no other frequent flyer program would get me to Hawaii in First for less than 30,000 mile!
Check in – Security – Lounging — Boarding
The airport of the future dubbed check-in style makes self-check-in and dropping a bag a breezed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as each person can use one of hundreds of kiosks to check in, print boarding passes, tag their own bag, and then drop their bag with an agent before heading to security. Thankfully, my partner and I were both not checking luggage, so we checked in via Alaska mobile web page and had mobile passes sent to our phone and then used passbook to store our mobile boarding pass. This works great on the android device and I really wish more airlines would catch on! Not only did I not have to worry about the page not loading when I got to security (this happens WAY too often on other airlines mobile apps), but the passbook auto updated with gate information day of travel.
After clearing security, my partner using the priority lane as he was flying first class and I used the pre-check line, we headed over to the Alaska Airlines Board Room for some preflight liberations and hors d’oeuvres. Anyone flying Alaska Airlines First Class (except for those on upgraded tickets) has access to the Alaska Airline Board Room. This is what sets Alaska apart from their competitors as Alaska Air gives first class access to those individuals on Award tickets and paid F on all flights, where as other legacy carriers reserve their lounges for international Business class/First class (not including North America, Mexico, Caribbean) passengers only. The Board Room is great, and has been reviewed by James in the past so I won’t re-review it, but I will say the snacks were out for the taking, drinks were poured strong, the staff was all smiles, and the plane spotting was superb! 30 minutes in the Board Room preflight was relaxing and a perfect way to prep for our flight!
At 7pm, we headed to our gate in the North Satellite for our 7:30pm departure. It took us about 15 minutes to get to the gate and when we arrived, the agent had already called all passengers and all rows. We bypassed the line, using the first class/MVP dedicated line and boarded immediately. Thankfully the line was not backed up on the jet bridge so we were able to walk straight to our seat, easily store our bags in the first class cabin, hang our suites in the coat closet, and make ourselves comfortable while the plane finished boarding. At each seat was a menu and before takeoff, the young flight attendant greeted each first class passengers with a delicious POG mimosa!
Alaska Airlines First Class Inflight
After taking off to the south from Seattle, we crossed over the state to the west and headed out to the open ocean and towards Hawaii. The pilot turned off the fasten seatbelt while still climbing, just a few minutes after departure as we were expecting a smooth flight and the lovely flight attendant working the forward cabin quickly got to work. The GoGo internet worked for about 20 minutes on this flight (while over Washington) and the best part was it was free! So not only was I able to text thanks to the T-mobile-GoGo partnership, I was able to do some last minute Tweeting and Facebooking!
As we worked our way to 35,000 feet and towards Hawaii, the FA immediately jumped up and started to service the forward cabin. She first greeted each passenger by last name and took drink and dinner orders. By the time she had reached us in the 2nd to last row, she was out of salmon and only had chicken left. I told her I was really hoping for the salmon (as I typically avoid meat) and she told me she would check to see if she could get someone to change as a few passengers seemed to be indecisive with what they really wanted. Not even a minute later she returned and told me that the gentleman in 1D had gladly offered to switch to chicken. We then joked that I would have to buy him a drink for his generosity! As Samantha, the FA working the forward cabin was busy with orders and getting drinks for passengers, two flight attendants from the rear cabin started distributing digiplayers. These were free for first class passengers and $10 for those in the main cabin. Both my partner and I took a digiplayer and then synced them up to watch two great movies while enroute to Hawaii. The digiplayers have about a 10” screen, a kick stand, two headphone ports for sharing, and a USB cable perfect for charging small devices.
By the time we had received our digiplayers and had figured out what movie to watch, Samantha had delivered our first rounds of drink with prepackaged dried fruit and nuts. The small snack was actually quite good for trail mix and was better than the seasoned salty snack mixed offered on Alaska’s other flights. We finished our first round of drinks just in time for Samantha to deliver our appetizer, which included bread and pot stickers. She also refilled our drinks without us even needing to ask! The main course then followed, with another round of drinks! The potstickers were slightly over cooked, but firm on the outside with a juicy inside. I honestly was impressed as this did not seem like an easy snack to re-heat on a plane. Dinner was delicious, flavorful and moist! My salmon was scrumptious and the sauce on my partners chicken was sweet and tangy! Dinner was light, not a lot of food, but satisfying enough.
Throughout the flight, Samantha checked on the cabin every 10-15 minutes with a walk through, refilled drinks, and checked on passengers. I felt like she wasn’t catering to passengers need in first class she was busy doing something else that pertained to the flight. She seemed to never stop! Yet she did this all with a big smile, and I later found out that the entire flight crew was Anchorage based, all had been hired in June and had just found out that they would all be coming off call and be holding the line in October at their bases of their choice! As you can imagine, this made the crew even happier as at no other airline can a FA hold the line (bid schedules vs be on call) after just only 4 months!
About 2 hours before landing, Samantha returned to the cabin with large plastic ramekins of mixed salted nuts and dessert. My partner and I took part in both and at the same time Samantha offered more drinks! Initially my partner declined the mix nuts, but after ensuring Samantha he would enjoy them he felt obligated and took the offering. He later thanked me and then told me he now understands why the mixed warm nuts are part of my favorite part of flying first…as they are delicious!
The flight continued towards Hawaii and about 15 minutes before touch down Samantha cleaned up the cabin, collected digiplayers and thanked each passenger for flying Alaska. The flight was truly fantastic and a great way to get to Hawaii. Sure, first class isn’t anything amazing on Alaska, as the seats are just large recliners and there are no foot rests or in seat PTV, but the crew is what truly sets Alaska apart from their competitors. Not to mention, the B737-900 we flew had the larger overhead bins and the updated Sky interior which made the flight even more enjoyable thanks to the mood lightening. Hawaii is a leisure market and airlines do not invest in the same high quality hard products that can be seen plying from coast to coast or on international long-haul flights. If you want a lay flat seat or more room when flying to Hawaii, consider flying Delta, United, or American from the Midwest or East Coast, where internationally configure jets ply the 8+ hour routes. Yet if you’re coming from a west coast gateway, expect a domestic first class seat and choose Alaska for the best of the best inflight customer service and a special menu catering flavors of the island!