|Alaska Airlines 737-800.|
By: Albert Rodriguez
Trip and Shout Editor
Flight Review: Alaska Airlines, First Class (Seattle to Atlanta)
(All photos taken by Albert Rodriguez, except aircraft exterior image)
Everyone should fly First Class at least once in their lifetime. If not for the splurge, then to realize how generic Coach has become. And although First Class can also be accused of being ordinary, I do believe Alaska Airlines is one company that gets it right.
How to score a First Class seat? You can pay full fare - it's not that expensive for domestic trips (especially short hops). Some airlines allow you to purchase an upgrade 24 hours prior to departure for as low as $50. If you accumulate all your miles into one frequent flyer program and earn 'tier status', you'll be eligible for complimentary upgrades, or you can sacrifice 15K miles for an upgrade (subject to availability). Celebrities, such as Kelly Clarkson and Kristin Wiig and Oliver Stone, have flown Alaska's First Class in recent months.
Here's what a First Class experience aboard Alaska Airlines is like on a 5-hour journey to Atlanta.
|Coffee and mini scone at the Board Room.|
First Class passengers can check in at the very North end of Alaska Airlines' Sea-Tac counters. You'll receive a boarding pass with stamped approval to enter the priority security lane - this saves lots of time (I zipped through security in about 4 minutes). Your checked-in bags should be tagged with priority tags, which means they'll be the first to be unloaded onto the carousel at your destination. Full fare tickets and awards redemption tickets allow you access to the "Board Room", Alaska Airlines' VIP Lounge in Sea-Tac's main terminal, but complimentary upgrades don't come with lounge passes (and I'm not sure about paid upgrades).
BOARDING / SEATING
First Class passengers will board immediately after disabled persons and families traveling with small children. I flew on a 737-800 to Atlanta, and First Class seats had a 37.0 pitch x 21.0 width (compared to 32.0 pitch x 17.0 width). Depending on the aircraft, the First Class cabin occupies the first 3 or 4 rows of the plane. The seat configuration is 2-2 across vs. 3-3 in Coach.
|Pre-takeoff water and coffee.|
Once in your seat, a flight attendant will come by to take any coats or jackets you'd like hung for the duration of the flight (they hand them back just before landing). Alaska will serve complimentary water and coffee prior to takeoff on morning flights, and later in the day they might offer an alcoholic beverage. Flight attendants will also distribute menu cards, which usually offer 2 entrees to choose from. And, for those of us with small bladders, First Class passengers have access to a separate lavatory at the front of the plane.
|Mimosa and snack.|
|Breakfast, part 1.|
|Breakfast, part 2.|
Of course, First Class seating comes with more attentive service. Flight attendants will come through the aisle frequently to refill drinks or to check up on you, and prior to landing will distribute hot towels to freshen up. The flight attendants on my trip were friendly and efficient - I didn't notice them standing around talking; they did their jobs that included giving the First Class lavatory a quick wipe down.
|Pre-landing warm nuts.|
I've flown First Class on two other airlines besides Alaska, and Alaska is my favorite. The food is better, the wine is better, there's a better variety of meals and larger portions, and I just think it's a better value for your buck than what other airlines offer. I wish Alaska flew bigger aircraft, especially cross-country, but I was quite pleased with their First Class product and look forward to future experiences.