Flight Review: Alaska Airlines Airbus A320 Seattle – San Francisco (First Class)

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It’s Christmas Eve and I am heading to the airport. I usually spend Christmas Eve at home with family until the pandemic starter in 2020. Last year, I basically had no Christmas at all, I just worked straight through Christmas. This year’s workload calmed down a little bit and I had actually time to make some plans. International travel was finally possible again but I decided against traveling on Christmas to a foreign country. First of all, the Omicron variant just emerged and nobody really knew how bad it would get. I was just afraid that the U.S. will close their borders again overnight and I have then no way of returning or at least no easy way. I tried to avoid this and therefore planned on going home in the Spring of 2022 for a little bit. However, I decided to have a trip on Christmas Eve down to San Francisco to meet and celebrate Christmas with friends the next day. I left the Hyatt Regency Seattle with plenty of time left to make it to the airport. The freeways were almost empty on this Friday evening. I expected a whole lot more traffic. I got to the rental car center without any traffic issues. I dropped off my car and hopped on the shuttle bus to the airport. The arrivals drive of the airport terminal building had lots of traffic but our bus driver was amazing and he knew how to navigate through this traffic to get us there without any delays. Thanks!

Check-In

I grabbed my bags and used the elevator to get upstairs to the ticketing level. Overall there were not too many people. I mean the ticketing level was full but it wasn’t crazy. I have seen worse here. There was a small line at the First Class check-in counter. The agents at the counters worked quickly to get everyone checked in. I still had plenty of time left and wasn’t worried about missing my plane, I was more worried about not having time to visit the lounge. I know first-world problems. As it was my turn, I already knew what to do. Check-in was quick and easy but unfortunately had to pay some overweight fees as my bags are all just under 70 lbs. I was hoping since Alaska Air joined Oneworld, they would have the same baggage allowance for Oneworld Emerald elites as American Airlines does. Three bags up to 70 lbs free. Unfortunately, they only give you three bags up to 50 lbs. To be honest, I wanted to pay for some of the bags as I still had to get rid of some Amex Airline Fee credits. At the beginning of each year, you can designate an airline at which you would like to use these credits at and then you have the whole year to spend $200 which gets reimbursed to you. You can’t use these credits for tickets but you can use them for baggage fees or in-flight purchases. As I designated Alaska Air from previous years and it just rolled over. I haven’t flown them as much, as usual, this year and therefore still had almost all of my credits left to redeem. This was the perfect time as the year is almost over and the charges have to post to my account before the end of the year. 

Airport Security

The TSAPreCheck line was almost empty. They had two PreCheck counters open at the security checkpoint behind Alaska Airlines’s ticketing. As usual, I used my TWIC card and this time the agent recognized the card and knew that their CAT-scanner wouldn’t read the ID. She performed a manual check and off I went to the x-ray machine. No calling of a supervisor to get through the checkpoint. It’s sad that TSA still hasn’t figured that issue out yet. My camera bag went through without any issues but as usual, my carry-on bag had to be sent through a second time with items removed as it was too densely loaded with electronics. This issue could be mitigated if they would still offer bins at the PreCheck lane, so I could take out stuff myself but they don’t want that. Also if baggage handler and TSA agents checking the checked bags would be a little more careful with my belongings, I could actually check parts of the stuff I carry on. After my carry-on came through the second time, I repacked everything back into my bag, and off I went to the Automated People Mover (APM) carrying people from the main terminal building to the North Satellite building.

Alaska Airlines Flagship Lounge (N Gates)

As I had over one hour of time before my flight would board, I headed straight for the Alaska Lounge in the N-Satellite building. Renovation of the whole satellite building is pretty much completed. Some retailers are still under construction but the whole satellite building is back open for business. It’s Alaska Airlines’ first Flagship lounge and I was here for the grand opening back in mid of 2019. Little did we all know how much of a hit the whole travel industry is going to take over the next few years. Anyway, back to the lounge. Check-in was simple, as I am flying first class and even domestic first-class tickets are welcome to use the lounges. That’s a big upside of Alaska Airlines. The lounge wasn’t packed at all. Plenty of seating was available pretty much in every corner of the lounge. 

Christmas Tree inside the Alaska Lounge

I had some clam chowder soup as well as a few soft drinks. Unfortunately, the service lacked a little bit. While I saw constantly staff cleaning and disinfecting tables, the soda dispenser was pretty much out of all options. The soup was gone too pretty quickly and never got replenished during my hour-long stay in the lounge. I wasn’t to worried about it, as I had already pre-ordered my meal for the flight. About ten minutes before official boarding started, I headed to my gate, which was located on the other side of the satellite building but overall a very short walk. I was there in time before boarding even started.

Flight# AS210

Boarding

I got to the gate with time to spare before even pre-boarding would start. The gate agents made announcements that the flight will be pretty full and they are looking for volunteers to check their bags to the final destination as they might run out of overhead bin space. A few people came up to have their bags checked.

AS 210 sitting at Gate N3

Pre-boarding started and nobody was showing up for the announcements. The gate agents waited a few minutes before starting boarding First Class. I was already near the priority lane as I tried to get pictures of the aircraft. Luckily I was the first one of the first-class passengers to scan my boarding pass and headed down the jetbridge. I rushed to get some space between me and the next passenger to have some time to snap photos. As I got to the airplane’s door I treated the flight attended and wished Merry Christmas to her. I snapped some pictures of the empty aisles before putting up my bags in the overhead bins. As I was seated in a bulkhead row, all my belongings had to go in the bins overhead for take-off and landing. While getting into my seat, my seat neighbor had already shown up and I wasn’t able to snap pictures of my row to honor her privacy.

First Class Cabin and Seat

This Alaska Airlines Airbus A320 is configured with 12 First class seats. Two on each side of the aisle with a total of three aisles of First Class. My seat was 1F, the window seat in the first row on the right side. I love window seats as I love to take pictures all the time. I knew that this would be a night flight but still, I just love sitting at the window. Getting in and out in first-class is also easy compared to economy class, where you have to pass two other passengers in your row. This was also a short flight and I was pretty certain that my bladder could keep up with that for the whole flight even while enjoying some in-flight drinks.

2nd Row of First Class Seats

Overall the seats are very spacious and comfortable to sit in. You still feel comfortable after flying across the continent to the east coast while sitting in one of them. The seats come with 110V AC power outlets and USB ports to charge your devices. I assume the USB ports just provide the “lame” 0.5A of charging current, which is not sufficient anymore for newer devices. I always carry my power adapter with me and charge my devices that way. However, since there is no real standard/norm in the U.S. for power outlets, most of the time my power adapter sits in there so loosely that it tends to fall out. I don’t know if there is a purpose behind this so that the cable pulls out easily during an evacuation but why don’t they have then the USB ports rather loosely fitting? I think it’s just a design flaw that I see on many aircraft of different airlines in the U.S. Alaska Airlines also won’t allow you to have anything plugged into your seat outlets during take-off and landing, while other airlines don’t have such a policy. The flight attendants will enforce this policy. 

USB Port, Power Outlet and life vest compartment

On the inside of each seat, below the armrest, is a little net for extra storage. Since the bulkhead row has no seatback pockets, the info material usually stored is in a small pocket mounted on the outside wall of the aircraft. It’s easy to reach for whoever sits at the window but the person in the aisle seat has to ask for assistance from the person in the window seat to get to this material. I don’t mind this setup, as pretty much nobody ever reads the safety card anyway. I check them out every now and then to see if they changed the design, but that’s about it. Surely not on every single flight. This frees the bulkhead from any obstructions and gives you more space which makes it also easier if you have to sneak out from the window seat. However, this is not meant to give you space to put your feet against the bulkhead. Don’t do that! Ever!

The outside armrest stores the tray table. Besides being just a simple tray table, these newly designed tray tables also have a device holder so you can enjoy your inflight entertainment. You can use it by only folding out the table but not fully opening it. At the top of the table, you will see the little holder piece you can fold out and rest your device against it to watch movies. That’s how I started to watch movies of the inflight entertainment system. As I noticed the flight attendant serving food trays, I opened up my tray table all the way and flipped the device holder all the way around. This would allow me to have my phone still propped up while enjoying my meal. I love this design. The armrest between the two seats features one cup holder for each passenger and some extra storage space for your phone perhaps.

Meal Service

While we were still on the ground and catering was loading the food and beverages for this flight, our flight attendant took our drink orders as well as food orders. She wasn’t sure yet what the actual food options are but she saw that I had pre-ordered my meal for the flight already and asked me if I want to stick with it. I absolutely wanted to stick with it, as I never tried that meal before. Just before take-off she came through the aisle and offered us water. I liked that their water is not filled in a plastic bottle it comes in a cardboard box. 

 

After take-off and reaching cruising altitude, our flight attendant got busy serving us the drinks we ordered earlier. I decided on some white wine while waiting for my food. 

I believe this was my first time trying the Alaska Airlines’ Pho Plate. To be honest, I think it was the first time ever trying Pho in general for me. Therefore I was kinda excited to see what I will get. The layout was simple on the food tray.

Pho Plate on Alaska Airlines AS210

You got your silverware wrapped in a napkin, a small pack of salt and pepper, dressing for the food, a JCoCo chocolate bar, and of course the main dish – the Pho plate. The food was really good and I liked it. I am always easy if it comes to food. I eat pretty much anything. However, after flying American Airlines countless times in the last few months, their Turkey Sandwich got kinda old. Every flight, the same exact food. I was so happy to finally have something else on this flight with Alaska Airlines. It was even a short flight and they served this amazing plate. For flights twice as long on American you still only get the Turkey Sandwich. End of July 2021, Alaska Airlines restored their food service to offer a fresh fare in the sky. Even with the pandemic still going on, Alaska is leading the in-flight food service at the moment. Thank you Alaska Airlines.

While enjoying my food and even after that, the flight attendant came through the aisles to top of our drinks. No asking required. You actually had to deny to be refilled rather than asking for a refill. That is service and taking care of passengers. Thank you, everyone.

Inflight Service and Amenities

Inflight Internet

Alaska Airlines offers quite a few in-flight amenities related to their onboard Wi-Fi. This is called Alaska Beyond Entertainment. This route was covered for inflight internet access and the plane was equipped with the necessary equipment. All of Alaska’s Airbus aircraft are equipped with the necessary technology.  However, there is a charge to get internet access. If you are a T-Mobile or Sprint customer you are in luck and get free inflight-internet access for free through your cell service carrier. All of Alaska Airlines’ internet is provided by GoGo Inflight.

Free Texting

With Alaska Airlines, everyone onboard gets free texting if the plane is within their inflight internet coverage area, which this flight was. But only a few messengers are supported. You can use iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp to chat and send emojis. However, sending pictures, videos, and voice messages is blocked. No purchase is required to use the free inflight texting service. 

Alaska Beyond – Free Entertainment

Last but not least, and my favorite, the inflight entertainment system. Watch the latest movies or select one from their library. You can find 100s of movies and TV shows in their library to watch for free during your flight. I usually use the time on planes to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters. I haven’t been to a theatre in years. However, be prepared to have the right browser installed. On iOS and Mac, you need Safari while on Windows and Android you have to use Chrome. If you don’t have these browsers installed before you connect to their inflight Wi-Fi, you can’t watch any movies. I know it’s super annoying but that’s just what they require. Most of their planes give you gate-to-gate streaming capability. That means you don’t have to wait until you are in the air to be able to watch a movie. You can do so when the plane is still in the boarding process.

I used the inflight entertainment system to watch the latest Marvel movie. For a few minutes during the movie, the streaming got really spotty and I had a loading circle every five seconds. Without doing anything on my end, this went away after a few minutes. It was super annoying and I had the same experience on another flight but with a different airline.

Conclusion

As usual, I can’t complain about anything on this flight. We arrived on time in San Francisco and the whole “Alaska Airlines Experience” was just wonderful. Everything from boarding to getting off the plane and the service in between was just amazing. The crew took good care of the passengers on board. The flight itself was smooth and no bumps along the way. Therefore the seatbelt sign stayed off for the majority of the flight. The only surprise for me was the baggage fee and what is considered overweight but I could have researched that ahead of time instead of just assuming. Not Alaksa’s fault.

Alaska Airlines AS210 Airbus A320 at SEA

I am a huge fan of Alaska Airlines, even before they joined the Oneworld Alliance. I hope joining the alliance has no negative effect on the airline. The problem is, as soon as companies get bigger, customer service drops. That’s true for every company out there and I haven’t found an exception yet. Please Alaska Airlines, just stay “You”. You don’t need to be the biggest carrier in the U.S. or the world. We love you exactly as you are.

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