Review of Alaska Airlines flight Los Angeles Portland in First

Airline Alaska Airlines
Flight AS 529
Class First
Seat 2F
Aircraft Boeing 737-800
Flight time 02:20
Take-off 16 Jun 16, 06:00
Arrival at 16 Jun 16, 08:20
AS   #107 out of 123 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 56 reviews
NGO85
By 900
Published on 21st June 2016
Background:

This series covers a last minute trip up to PDX for family reasons. Booking 2 weeks out, AS was the cheapest at $221 roundtrip in Y and with their heavy LAX-PDX service, they had the best fit to my schedule. I was originally anticipating claiming these miles with AA, but after the announcement of AA’s FFP changes for 2017, I opted for a status match to AS MVP Gold status. With my MVP Gold status in hand, I quickly requested complimentary upgrades for both flights. I immediately received an upgrade for Part 1 and got a last second upgrade for Part 2.

Part 1 – LAX-PDX [AS 529, Boeing B737-800, First] – You are here
Part 2 – PDX-LAX [AS 570, Boeing B737-800, First] – Here


Pre-flight:

I arrived at LAX around 4:15, parked my car, and was at T6 around 4:30 for check-in. There was only 1 agent at the priority line, so it was a 10 minute wait for the 2 gentlemen before me to finish up before I was helped. My bag was tagged to PDX and I was handed my boarding pass.

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I personally dislike these boarding passes, finding information on them is not easy given the small font.

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AS is one of the biggest operators at T6, with only a handful of AA and DL flights to round things up. They have the place decked out in AS insignia.

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The security line was slightly long and it took 15 minutes to clear security. I finally reached airside at 5:00.

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The AS Board Room, which I don’t have access to.

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T6 is under a lot of renovation, so things are slowly improving.

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The seats all have their own in-seat power in the waiting areas.

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Plane spotting in T6 is very difficult, and these were the best shots I could manage. A couple of AS B737s.

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The only shot of my plane that I could get from the terminal.

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FIDS, as you can see AS and DL are the heaviest LAX-PDX operators with WN and AA having limited options.

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My boarding gate.

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————————-

Alaska Airlines, AS 529
Equipment: Boeing B737-800 [N586AS, delivered September 2007]
Departure: 6:00 (ATD: 6:25)
Arrival: 8:20 (ATA: 8:18)
Flight time: 1:53


Right on time, boarding was called. After special assistance boarding, the first class cabin was called to board. Scanning my boarding pass, the gate agent thanks me by name name and wishes me a good flight. Down the jetbridge we go.

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Fuselage shot.

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3 FAs were in the galley and welcome me on board.

The F cabin, which has 4 rows of 2-2 seating with large black recliners.

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Settling into my seat, you can admire the carpeted bulkhead with traditional Alaskan designs.

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The seat pitch is tight for F standards at 36” (same as Y+ on AA).

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The legroom is hindered by an entertainment box.

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The center console.

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The seats have in-seat power and a USB outlet.

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Seatback contents.

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Safety card for this B738.

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Entertainment information.

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Beyond inflight magazine and the AS fleet information (sporting their new livery).

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Our next door neighbor in the morning light.

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A few minutes later, the catering truck shows up.

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Now that the catering arrived, we were handed out water bottles.

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As boarding continued, the FA offered coffee to the F cabin as a PDB. She also introduced herself, took aperitif drink orders for after takeoff, and asked us to let her know if there is anything she can do to make our flights better.

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Some fresh fish being loaded up.

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At 5:55, we pushed back giving an AA/AS tail line-up.

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We then taxied past the DL operations at T5.

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As we join the long queue for takeoff, an Air Bridge Cargo B747F landing.

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UA B737.

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AS B737 to SEA.

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FedEx B767F.

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A trio of FedEx MD-11Fs.

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NK A320.

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AA B737.

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Turning onto the runway, you can see a long line of planes in the queue behind us.

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CM B738 in Sao Paolo FC special livery, I flew this plane PTY-UIO.

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Starting our run down the runway.

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Lifting up over LAX.

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Approaching the coast.

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Goodbye LA.

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Downtown and the winglet.

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Malibu beneath the early morning haze.

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Service started with a hot oshibori.

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My aperitif is served and the FA addresses me by name and asks me if I was interested in joining them for breakfast. She said there was a hot option (eggs, sausage, and a waffle) or a continental breakfast (cereal). I opted for the hot option.

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My breakfast tray is laid down in front of me and seeing my empty glass, the FA immediately asks if I wanted another glass. I requested an orange juice with my breakfast.

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A decent portion of eggs, which needed salt and pepper from the packets. The sausage and waffle were both sweet. The waffle was already getting a little bit hard by the time I was served it.

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Syrup, salt, and pepper.

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The fruit plate.

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A warm Danish with apricot filling.

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The AS cutlery. No spoon is given in their set, which is a little strange.

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It was a cloudy run up to PDX with nothing to see the whole trip.

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When my tray was cleared, the FA asked if I wanted anything else to drink. I took a coffee and Baileys.

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Shortly after my drink was handed to me, the captain came on and asked the crew to prepare the cabin for arrival. Green was now visible between the clouds as we dropped into Oregon.

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Mt. Hood poking up in the distance.

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Crossing over the southern suburbs of Portland and the Willamette River.



Turning to align with the majestic Columbia River.

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Crossing over I-205 as we do our final descent on a cloudy day.

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An AS Dash-8 in Boise State Broncos special livery. The Idaho Vandals, Washington Huskies, and Oregon State Beavers special liveries were also there.

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Touching down a little bit ahead of schedule.

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What a treat, my first glimpse of the new AS livery. It is definitely a beautiful upgrade for AS.

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Pulling into our gate next to some AS and WN B737s.

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PDX has not changed at all and looks just like it did when I was a kid with this nasty green carpet.

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After collecting my bag, I stopped by the kiosk to buy my MAX ticket. The Portland light rail system connects the airport to downtown in ~20 minutes. The tickets cost $2.50 for a 2.5h pass or $5 for a 1-day pass.

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Outside, the MAX is there and waiting. It runs every 15 minutes and the cabins are pretty clean.

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Welcome to Portland!

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And with that, I’ll leave off this series and pick things up as I head back to LAX.
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Verdict

Alaska Airlines

7.0/10
Cabin7.0
Cabin crew9.5
Entertainment3.0
Meal/catering8.5

Los Angeles - LAX

7.6/10
Efficiency8.0
Access6.0
Services8.5
Cleanliness8.0

Portland - PDX

8.3/10
Efficiency8.0
Access8.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness9.0

Conclusion

AS offers one of the best soft products in North America. It was such a night and day experience compared to my recent experiences with AA (ground staff and crews). The hard product isn't great on their B737 fleet, but AS catering pretty solid and one of the few carriers to offer food on flights of every length. At the end of the day, I value good crews over good hard product on shorter flights.

Cabin comfort: The AS cabins are dated with large black leather recliners. The seats are very comfortable, but they lack legroom, the pitch is tight, and there is very little personal storage.

Crew: Fantastic crew and ground staff. They all address passengers by name and genuinely seem to like their jobs. Only 1 FA working the F cabin so service was a little on the slow side, but my glass never sat empty so it wasn't really a problem.

Meal and catering: The competitors on this route (AA and DL) only do beverage service for LAX-PDX. AS serves a breakfast, so that should be considered in the scoring. The tray was pretty full and although the eggs and waffle could have been better, the fruit plate was a good size and the Danish was good. Plenty of drinks on this flight.

Entertainment: No newspapers offered. Standard seatback literature. No personal IFE (AS only gives out tablets on flights over 3 hours).

Related

10 Comments

  • Comment 354298 by
    Numero_2 SILVER 8153 Comments

    Thank you Michael !

    "The AS Board Room, which I don’t have access to." -> Why that ?

    "Settling into my seat, you can admire the carpeted bulkhead with traditional Alaskan designs." -> Well, that's a pretty unusual pattern for a bulkhead design. :p

    "took aperitif drink orders for after takeoff" -> It's always 5pm somewhere. lol

    "The sausage and waffle were both sweet." -> Then it was an English breakfast option. ^^

    "The tickets cost $2.50 for a 2.5h pass or $5 for a 1-day pass." -> Is there someone who still hesitates about which ticket to buy ??? Oh yes, you. :p

    • Comment 354706 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1624 Comments

      Merci Clement^^

      "The AS Board Room, which I don’t have access to." -> Why that ?
      - Only revenue F passengers can access the lounge. I was in U fare class as a complimentary upgrade.

      "It's always 5pm somewhere. lol"
      - My seatmate downed 4 Bloody Mary's on this flight.

      "Then it was an English breakfast option. ^^"
      - Thankfully they omitted the blood pudding ;)

      "Is there someone who still hesitates about which ticket to buy ??? Oh yes, you. :p"
      - It was only a one-way trip, I didn't need to use the light-rail again for the rest of the trip^^

  • Comment 354390 by
    jetsetpanda SILVER 2279 Comments

    Hi Michael and congratulations on your MVP Gold match.

    Perhaps my expectations were very high, but when I was Gold with AS, it failed to really impress me. I thought that they were OK, but nothing really spectacular. The ground agents tend to be a bit friendlier and more accommodating than those of the legacy carriers, but as far as the inflight crew it was not exceptionally out of this world. Glad to read that your experience is more reassuring. Another positive thing is that upgrades tend to clear more frequently with them. ;)

    Your breakfast looks solid and kudos to AS for offering something more than the competition. The new livery is very well done and I think it looks better than the old one.

    PDX is a nice airport and public transportation is phenomenal.

    Thanks for sharing this FR.

    • Comment 354707 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1624 Comments

      "when I was Gold with AS, it failed to really impress me. I thought that they were OK, but nothing really spectacular."
      - You just have to remember that everything is relative ;) It will never live up to Asian standards, but compared to other recent experiences on AA and UA, it was much better. I may not try to keep status with them, but I'll gladly take the 4 upgrade certificates they offer for free. There is talk they are moving to revenue based (like the VX program), and I don't care for their OW/ST partners.

      "Your breakfast looks solid and kudos to AS for offering something more than the competition."
      - It's more complete than some long-haul J breakfasts offered by US carriers.

      "PDX is a nice airport and public transportation is phenomenal."
      - I don't really care for PDX, but it is a very convenient airport to the city center and has some local shops/restaurants that help distinguish it.

      Thanks for stopping by Adan!

  • Comment 354428 by
    Rl 777 812 Comments

    Thank you for sharing another great FR with us!

    It's really nice that all of the seats have power ports at the waiting areas.

    Fantastic shots taken at sunrise!

    Beautiful shots after takeoff, absolutely breathtaking.

    Impressive that you had a full bréakfast on this flight, an advantage to AS' competitors on routes like this one.

    Absolutely fantastic shots before landing at PDX.

    The tram looks very clean inside.

    Overall a good experience with AS, not the best hard product but a nice soft product.

    Have a good one, see you!

    • Comment 354708 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1624 Comments

      "It's really nice that all of the seats have power ports at the waiting areas."
      - Yeah, definitely one of the few airports that I've seen that have this feature, but it is limited to Terminal 6 only and doesn't apply to all of LAX.

      "Impressive that you had a full bréakfast on this flight, an advantage to AS' competitors on routes like this one."
      - The food and plane. AA sends ERJ-175s and DL sends B717s, neither of which is as pretty as a B737 ;)

      "Overall a good experience with AS, not the best hard product but a nice soft product."
      - For a 2 hour flight, any hard product is fine whether it be LCC or not. The soft product matters more. Plus, with catering to eat, you forget the need for IFE (which is rare on US domestic routes to begin with).

      Thanks for all your comments!

  • Comment 354562 by
    757Fan 462 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this report, Michael.

    I fly Alaska Airlines quite a bit between MSP-SEA-MSP, and between several cities in Oregon, including Eugene, Portland, and Medford. I've always found them to be a great airline, and back when Delta was a very close partner, I was lucky to receive an upgrade on one of the flights to MSP from SEA.

    The breakfast served looks quite nice and plentiful for a flight of this length. When I flew Delta back in March and got an upgrade from Sacramento to Seattle, the meal served was a cold snack, including a cold wrap. It filled me up, but wasn't that tasty.

    Looking forward to seeing your return trip!

    • Comment 354711 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1624 Comments

      "I was lucky to receive an upgrade on one of the flights to MSP from SEA."
      - Those days are probably long gone. Upgrades for AS elites seem to be pretty plentiful, but that might change soon with an influx of ex-AA west coast people. With all the legacy US carriers moving to revenue based FFPs, the self-financed travelers are the ones taking the hit and will be squeezed out.

      "from Sacramento to Seattle, the meal served was a cold snack, including a cold wrap."
      - A little bit shorter than LAX-PDX, but I wouldn't expect DL to serve anything on that route. DL sends a B717 on its LAX-PDX service, which is hardly an improvement on hard product comfort.

      Thanks for stopping by Matthew!

  • Comment 354658 by
    socalnow GOLD 735 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this fantastic report, as always.

    The pictures on departure from LAX and on arrivl at PDX are stunning. Such vivid colors and light. Also such contrasts in terrain.

    I'm typically of the mindset that the reputation Alaska Airlines has for service and product is way over hyped. The airplane interiors are dated and cramped and my interactions with staff have been a full range of pleasant to terrible. That said, the service on this flight is quite good with a hot meal and an attentive flight attendant.

    Thanks again and happy flying.

    • Comment 354713 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1624 Comments

      "The pictures on departure from LAX are stunning."
      - When are LAX departures not stunning? (May/June being exceptions) I always fight to get a window seat for take-off. The landings over the Conejo Valley are also very scenic.

      "my interactions with staff have been a full range of pleasant to terrible."
      - That sounds like any North/South American carrier ;) Inconsistency always abounds. My sample set is very small with AS (my first ever flights are in this series), so I'm sure that is not entirely representative of AS. I'm not in a rush to fly AS again, but with their upgrade vouchers in my back-pocket, they might be a good option for a LAX-LIR or LAX-SJO run.

      Thanks for your comments!

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