On our way to Hawaii last year, Megan and I booked a revenue fare on Alaska Airlines and an award ticket on Hawaiian Airlines for the return. I was kind of excited to try them both as all of my previous trips to Hawaii had been on United or American. (Except for a charter flight when I was two, which my dad still describes as the trip from hell.)
Luckily my MVP Gold elite status earned us both a complimentary upgrade two days before departure. I was quite surprised given it was a holiday weekend, but maybe it helped that we were leaving around 6 PM on a Wednesday rather than a Friday or Saturday morning. It’s just another example of the excellent record I’ve had getting complimentary elite upgrades on Alaska Airlines even with mid-tier status.
One reason I wanted to try Alaska so badly is that they operate a ton of non-stop flights from Seattle that would save me the pain of connecting elsewhere. I’m glad to say that Alaska Airlines beats United hands-down when it comes to the quality of service and food on-board, despite using a narrow-body Boeing 737. (United is now also using narrow-body Boeing 757s and 737s from SFO and LAX to OGG, though my past experience has been on Boeing 767s.) More importantly, I don’t have to catch a 6 AM flight to San Francisco and connect.
We were welcomed with a printed menu that included a choice of two entrees. I went with the pork chop while Megan had the chicken. Both were delicious, as was the lettuce cup appetizer. I’ve noticed that a lot of Alaska’s first class catering tends to be prepared and re-heated in bulk before it’s plated for the passenger, which seems to help with the taste and presentation.
In fact, the whole meal was good. I ate my ice cream — and Megan’s — and had a couple of Kona Longboard lagers before they came around with mai tais half-way through. (Though an announcement was made regarding the “halfway to Hawaii” game, it appears that didn’t apply to first class. We were never given an entry form.) What probably made this trip feel better than any ordinary flight — and the same is true of some other carriers — was that Alaska Airlines seemed to make a big effort to add a Hawaiian feel to the experience.
Given the amount of tourism to Hawaii, I really value a special touch on these routes. Things like a separate Hawaiian menu, an orchid on the tray table, and some island-themed food make the flight feel special. American Airlines uses a different hot nut mix, for example, with dried pineapple chunks.
Alaska doesn’t provide seat-back or overhead entertainment on any of its flights, but it does rent digEplayers to economy class passengers and provides them for free in first class. (Worth noting, seat-back entertainment on flights from the West Coast to Hawaii is relatively rare, so the digEplayers are more good than bad.) The screen isn’t very large, and it’s difficult to keep it on the tray table while you’re eating, but I found the selection sufficient for a five- to six-hour flight.
I’d be happy to take Alaska Airlines again the next time I go to Hawaii and am already looking forward to using a companion fare when we go to Kauai this summer. Or, I could use miles. Avios points are one of the best values to Hawaii from the West Coast, as low as 25,000 points round-trip on Alaska.
If anyone has better service, it might be Hawaiian Airlines. We used HawaiianMiles for the return, sat in economy class, and were impressed to get a hot meal on what appeared to be a relatively new plane. The employees were nearly as friendly as anyone on Alaska. If only they made it easier to earn and burn with some larger partners…