Last weekend I flew from SoCal to Seattle on Alaska Airlines, and what great things I have to say about the airline. I booked my flight using British Airways Avios points which you can read about in my previous blog post. This was my first time flying Alaska and I’ve heard good things.
I am staying in Irvine, CA so naturally SNA Orange County airport is closest. However AS flies to most of the airports all over Southern California as well, with LAX having the most flight times.
I couldn’t check-in online on the outbound from SNA to Seattle so I got to the airport 50 minutes before departure. Used the machine to check-in and it was very quick and easy. I was assigned a seat towards the back of the plane but changed my selection to Row 6 so I could deplane faster. I later learned that AS also boards Row 6 early with the elites, so a bonus for me. I only had carry-on luggage so getting to the gate was quick and easy. Security line is short and SNA is a small and easy to navigate airport in general so you don’t need to arrive very early.
As mentioned Row 6 boards early, but due to some seating issue they asked if I wanted to change to an exit row which wasn’t a problem for me. I saw in Row 16, the first of two exit rows on the plane. The seat doesn’t recline but the legroom was surely ample.
Plane departed about 5-10 minutes early so make sure you get to your gate on-time. Drinks were served twice during the short 2.25 hour flight, so that’s a nice perk. Also Alaska serves honey mustard pretzels, while other US airlines don’t even give you peanuts now. Arrival was slightly early as well and a quick pull-up to the gate. No problems.
In the magazine I read that Alaska Airlines had a 20 minutes guarantee for bags to be on the luggage belt, otherwise they’ll offer you a $25 discount on your next flight. This is pretty cool, don’t think I’ve really heard of such a thing in the US before. If you have a choice to fly Alaska or another airline next time, there’s really no reason not to choose AS.
The return experience was similar, except I was able to check-in online this time. I checked in online again, select a Row 6 window seat this time and got a nice seat up front. Use my mobile phone as the boarding pass for the first time and I had to scan it once at the TSA checkpoint and again at the gate but no problems using it. Seattle Tacoma airport is really nice and modern. There’s a large food court and seating area right when you enter the main security area. There’s also some rocking chairs staring out to the runway and planes for aviation fans.
The bathrooms were interesting, they have these touchless sinks which also double as hand dryers by Dyson. It’s kind of reminiscent of an airplane, not sure if that was on purpose or more functional. Was pretty cool although a bit unusual and probably expensive.
Boarding was done so quick by the time I got to the gate about 15-20 minutes before departure the plane was already full of people, crazy. Experience was the same, plane left and arrived early. 2 drink services and the pretzels again.
I think if you fly into a larger airport like LAX the early departure and arrival is less likely since there’s more plane activity, greater numbers of people boarding and connecting from other destinations, takes longer to get through security, and the runway taxi distance is longer. But still, this is impressive. Thanks to Alaska for keeping some professionalism in the US airline industry.