Review of Alaska Airlines flight San Diego San Jose in Domestic First

Airline Alaska Airlines
Flight AS1895
Seat 2A
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 01:30
Take-off 23 Aug 19, 13:55
Arrival at 23 Aug 19, 15:25
AS   #103 out of 139 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 67 reviews
KévinDC
By SILVER 957
Published on 7th February 2020

introduction


Hello and welcome to this short series of Alaska Airlines domestic First class reviews.

One of the cool things about being a new Californian, is getting to take intra-California flights, something I'd only done on rare occasions before. Since moving to San Diego, I'd switched my loyalty to Alaska Airlines as they offer the most extensive network from SAN and still have a decent Frequent Flyer programme compared to the big US3.

We needed to get to the Bay Area for a weekend and found some good First class fares on Alaska Airlines. The best part was that the flights were on pre-merger Virgin America A320s, which have a superior First class product. 

Though Alaska Airlines recently began retrofitting the ex-Virgin Airbus fleet with a more standard domestic First class product, many ex-VX birds are still flying with the old cabins. The easiest way to tell which cabin you will have is by pulling up the seat map–aircraft with the old Virgin cabins have only 2 rows of First class.


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Reports in this series


Routing


Pre-flight & Check-in


With a midday flight well outside of the morning and evening rush, we only got to the airport a little over an hour before departure. Also, since there is no Alaska Airlines lounge or any Priority Pass lounge at SAN (I know crazy, huh?), there wasn't much incentive to arrive too early.


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We had one bag to check along with the baby's car seat, which took less than a minute to drop off as there was no wait in the First Class & Elite queue.


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Flying out of SAN midday is a much more pleasant experience than the chaotic early morning rush and evening redeye banks. 

With no wait at TSA Pre-Check, we were airside minutes after arriving at the terminal.  


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Spotted this sexy JAL 787 on the way to our gate.


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It was a bit of a haul to the gate at the end of the concourse. 


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boarding


A few minutes after arriving at the gate, and getting a gate-check tag for the baby's stroller, boarding began. Unlike AA and DL, as I've reported in other reviews, Alaska Airlines actually do true pre-boarding for passengers with infants, which I really appreciate.  

Here's our A320 at the gate–the new Alaska livery has really grown on me. 


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Welcome aboard this Virgin America…I mean Alaska A320


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The purple mood lighting was so signature Virgin–though on a beautiful sunny southern California day it's a bit of a shame to have the cabin plunged in darkness.


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As mentioned above, there are only 8 seats laid out in a 2-2- configuration in the very spacious First class cabin. 


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The 55" seat pitch is the most generous amount of space of any domestic First class cabin, usually pitched at 38-40"–very sad that these cabins are being replaced with standard seats.

This type of configuration was pretty common for international Business class just 15 years ago. The seats are the same as Delta's previous  long-haul/transcon 757 Business class seat, which were replaced with lie-flat only 3-4 years ago. I'd reviewed those seats back in 2014–feel free to check it out here

While the seats obviously don't go fully flat, they have a very deep recline and the leg-rest comes up quite high, creating a true Cradle Recliner.


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Soooo spacious! ♥


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As is usually the case with Alaska, there is no pre-departure drink service, though small bottles of water are distributed.


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the flight


Boarding was quick and we pushed back from the gate a few minutes early. Taxi time was pleasantly short at this less-busy time of day and we took off with a beautiful view of the coast.


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And as often seems to be the case, the baby fell asleep during takeoff and slept most of the way to San Jose. Can't complain!


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The non-retrofitted ex-Virgin aircraft still have a working IFE system.


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The content isn't as good as it was in the VX days, but having in-seat IFE at all on a 1h flight is definitely a plus.

IFE remotes in the armrests. 


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Cabin crew took drink orders as soon as we were in the air. I had a sparkling wine…which came in a can (I know right?…GASP!!).

I'm not going to lie and say it was good, but it was drinkable to be honest. I was expecting worse. 


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Nice views of the channel islands as I sipped on my canned bubbly.


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As soon as my glass was empty, the Flight attendant working First came by to offer a top up.


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We began turning back inland as we approached the Bay Area.



After only about 40 minutes in the air, the cabin was readied for arrival. One of the seats in the front  row had a problem with the recline motor and wouldn't raise back up, so the FA had to raise it manually. Unfortunately it seems these old cabins aren't being maintained as well as they could be since they are being replaced.


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Always love flying over California and the West coast in general. So beautiful and mountainous.


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And golf courses everywhere.


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Super dense residential areas, very common in California, as I've come to learn. 


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Avaya stadium


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We landed ahead of schedule


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International and long-haul routes have really grown out of SJC over the past several years. 


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These guys pretty much own the airport.


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Though Alaska also has a decent presence here–though nothing compared to the SFO hub up the street.


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Oh look, we landed early and we have a gate ready! That never happened on AA.


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And we park next to Hotdog-on-a-stick Airlines.


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Despite being Hotdog-on-a-stick-esque, the new SWA livery is actually pretty nice. It's a nice change from so much boring white around the world.


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Some final views of the cabin as we disembark.


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Welcome to San Jose! 


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I was impressed with how nice and new the terminal was. I guess that's what Silicon Valley money gets you!


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See more

Verdict

Alaska Airlines

8.0/10
Cabin9.0
Cabin crew8.5
Entertainment/wifi8.5
Meal/catering6.0

San Diego - SAN

8.5/10
Efficiency8.0
Access8.5
Services8.5
Cleanliness9.0

San Jose - SJC

8.0/10
Efficiency8.5
Access7.5
Services7.5
Cleanliness8.5

Conclusion

I was happy to have the opportunity to fly on an ex-Virgin A320 that still have the old VX cabins. While the cabins aren't in the best shape, these seats are still very comfortable and waaaay above average for domestic First class.

The cabin crew were very friendly and attentive--that's where AS and VX cultures are very similar. Friendly staff on the ground and in the air.

Catering was meh...not as good as the VX days, but decent for a 1h flight. The short-haul snack baskets are pretty much all the same on any US carrier. Nothing stands out as exceptional.

Overall a very nice short flight with Alaska (also Virgin kinda ^^)

Related

18 Comments

  • Comment 541177 by
    emyrrs SILVER 98 Comments

    Nice report KevinDC!

    Welcome aboard this Virgin America…I mean Alaska A320

    LOL, even the livery already with the Alaskan, the interior still with Virgin. Will definitely miss those distinctive cool transparent divider.

    • Comment 541271 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5136 Comments

      Hi Emyrrs, thanks for your comments!

      LOL, even the livery already with the Alaskan

      Yep, they painted those VX planes fast!

      the interior still with Virgin. Will definitely miss those distinctive cool transparent divider.

      For a little while longer at least. The dividers are very cool indeed. I'm glad that Alaska at least will keep some elements of VX, like the mood lighting.

      Thanks for sharing!

  • Comment 541288 by
    airberlin GOLD 701 Comments

    Thanks Kevin for the report. We don’t have some on Alaska that often and even less on hold Virgin America aircrafts. I’m a pretty frequent flyer on Delta and find them good and consistent on domestic flights. I would say even better than what I see out of your report. I cannot judge their FFP though and I know that many US3 dévaluantes them massively recently. See you, Vincent

    • Comment 541525 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5136 Comments

      Bonjour Vincent, I'm definitely a fan of Alaska as I think they have a truly friendly customer-focused culture. The onboard product isn't as good or consistent as DL, but there's something I really love about Alaska...it still feels like a smaller regional airline in some ways, despite the merger with VX. The FFP is also very good as achieving status is relatively easy, mileage earning is still actually based on miles (with Elite bonuses, etc, like all airlines back in the day) and there are no revenue/spend requirements like the US3. AS is especially good for partner premium cabin redemptions at low levels, but AS isn't for everyone since their route network is so West Coast-focused.

      Thanks for your comments!

  • Comment 541306 by
    Harry_He SILVER 64 Comments

    Thanks for a great report Kevin!

    The 55" seat pitch is the most generous amount of space of any domestic First class cabin, usually pitched at 38-40"–very sad that these cabins are being replaced with standard seats.

    I miss those seats so much... The new Alaska seats are okay at best (sufficient for short flights) the removal of IFE screens still hurts...
    Oh look, we landed early and we have a gate ready! That never happened on AA.

    WHAT? Early arrival and an open gate?

    • Comment 541526 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5136 Comments

      Hey Harry, thanks for your comments!

      The new Alaska seats are okay at best (sufficient for short flights)

      Yeah, I think they could've done a better job finding a replacement seat. I get they couldn't keep the VX seat, but they could've found a more innovative product than vanilla-run-of-the-mill Recliner seat with 40" pitch...granted 40" pitch is on the high end of average for Domestic F, it's not special like VX was. And now AS will be super uncompetitive on premium transcons! Who wants to do a 5h LAX/SFO-NYC redeye in a recliner seat when they can have a full flat seat on literally every other carrier on those routes!? I'm a pretty big fan of Alaska, for pretty much everything, except this.

      the removal of IFE screens still hurts...

      Ugh, yeah...I mean who takes AA and UA as examples! Granted AS have streaming IFE and power to keep personal devices charged, but I'll take PTVs any day over having to use my own device.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 541530 by
    757Fan 583 Comments

    Nice report, Kevin! Looks like a good flight with AS. I haven't flown them in a while, but have always found them to be a good airline, with good service. Love the look of the former VA cabin, but those seats look a bit dirty with the white leather showing it's age!

    • Comment 541653 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5136 Comments

      Thanks Matthew! Yeah, the cabin is looking really worn these days, unfortunately since Alaska is replacing them, they're not maintaining them properly. The white leather looked so luxurious in the VX heyday, but now it looks a bit dirty in daylight--much better under mood lighting haha

  • Comment 542084 by
    YGeorgeW GOLD 183 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this flight Kevin!

    Since moving to San Diego, I'd switched my loyalty to Alaska Airlines as they offer the most extensive network from SAN and still have a decent Frequent Flyer programme compared to the big US3.

    - RIP your AA loyalty eh? How are upgrades on Alaska in comparison?

    The 55" seat pitch is the most generous amount of space of any domestic First class cabin, usually pitched at 38-40"–very sad that these cabins are being replaced with standard seats.

    - Absolutely generous, though for I'm actually quite conflicted regarding these seats.

    As is usually the case with Alaska, there is no pre-departure drink service, though small bottles of water are distributed.

    - Interesting, I just flew Alaska a few days ago and was offered coffee or orange juice as PDB.

    And as often seems to be the case, the baby fell asleep during takeoff and slept most of the way to San Jose. Can't complain!

    - And the best best flight-trained baby of 2020 award goes to . . .

    Cabin crew took drink orders as soon as we were in the air. I had a sparkling wine…which came in a can (I know right?…GASP!!).

    - Never had canned sparkling wine before - what was the brand?

    Thanks for this report!

    • Comment 542139 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5136 Comments

      Hey George, thanks for your comments!

      RIP your AA loyalty eh? How are upgrades on Alaska in comparison?

      Hah...so originally I would say yeah, but after today's announcement of Alaska joining oneworld and an expanded partneship with AA, I guess I'll have my cAAke and eAAt it too! So I can stick with AA for those routes I'll prefer AS and same with AA...win!

      Interesting, I just flew Alaska a few days ago and was offered coffee or orange juice as PDB.

      I've noticed they do this more on longer flights. Was is a transcon or midcon?

      And the best best flight-trained baby of 2020 award goes to ...

      Thanks! Yeah, we get compliments every flight about how well-behaved he is. Flying again in 2 days and he's been having some teething fits...hopefully he'll be his usual calm self on board! Fingers crossed

      Never had canned sparkling wine before - what was the brand?

      Me neither...I didn't even know it was a thing. It's called House Wine: https://originalhousewine.com/

      Thanks for stopping by!

      • Comment 542253 by
        YGeorgeW GOLD 183 Comments

        I guess I'll have my cAAke and eAAt it too!

        - Before you get too excited, I'll echo Hometoyyz's concern about devaluation.

        Was is a transcon or midcon?

        - I've never heard the term midcon actually, but I guess this qualifies. Nothing is particularly close to Texas.

        Almost forgot--no idea about upgrades on Alaska because I have a terrible fear of missing out on upgrades so I always buy First or try to use an upgrade instrument to confirm ahead of time.

        - Alaska prices its F cabins pretty reasonably. That's why I didn't hesitate in spending the extra money myself.

    • Comment 542142 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5136 Comments

      Almost forgot--no idea about upgrades on Alaska because I have a terrible fear of missing out on upgrades so I always buy First or try to use an upgrade instrument to confirm ahead of time. From what I hear from 75K friends, upgrade ratio seems good--better on AS-metal than VX-metal obviously since the cabins are larger.

  • Comment 542153 by
    hometoyyz SILVER 538 Comments

    Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for this look at Alaska Domestic First.

    My only experience with AS F is on LAS-SFO-PSP, both segment on these same former Virgin A320s, so it looks familiar.

    still have a decent Frequent Flyer programme compared to the big US3

    I wonder if we’ve seen the end of that, as they get closer to AA and Oneworld. I do wonder if we’ll see AA pressure them to “get in line” with what AA is offering frequent fliers.

    The 55" seat pitch is the most generous amount of space of any domestic First class cabin

    Yep. Space for miles! In today’s world, it feels so surprising.

    And as often seems to be the case, the baby fell asleep during takeoff and slept most of the way to San Jose. Can't complain!

    Already a travel pro. Very impressive!

    I had a sparkling wine…which came in a can

    I did not know that was a thing. Although I was surprised when DL had canned sparkling water, so what do I know?

    Some lovely shots of arrival into SJC — a great little export in my limited experience.

    Thanks for sharing this one.

    Cheers!

    • Comment 542192 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5136 Comments

      Hey HometoYYZ, thanks so much for your comments!

      I do wonder if we’ll see AA pressure them to “get in line” with what AA is offering frequent fliers.

      I'm wondering the same thing...there will probably be a sweet-spot year or two (2021-2022) where the AS programme remains mostly unchanged, but it's clearly too generous compared to AA/BA and other ow members, so I'm afraid it'll inevitably get "enhanced"--hopefully not too badly though! There are plenty of examples of generous FFPs coexisting with not-so-good FFPs within the ranks of *A. I'm obviously thinking of A3, OZ, TK FFPs where reaching *G is much easier than UA, etc. Hoping we'll see a scenario akin to this--granted AA and AS are in the same country so that may play into it as well.

      I did not know that was a thing.

      I had no idea it was a thing either, haha. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that each can holds 375ml...that's right...each can is a half bottle! That's some efficient drinking right there!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 542205 by
    Kentsfo 1 Comments

    Thanks, Kevin, for a great review and pictures.
    Must have been an ex VX crew working that day. We were always instructed to pull the shades down in First, to highlight the white seats and the
    purple mood lighting. Main cabin shades were to be fully open.
    I miss working that intimate F cabin, serving some of the best chef-curated meals on domestic US routes. Poached Eggs for breakfast with Phills coffee? Not a problem. Flank Steak with Chimichurri sauce on warmed plates for lunch? Of course. And when you're peckish, a Dean and Deluca snack basket. Pair that with
    premium wines and Sparkling Wine (not from a can!), and you had the best premium cabin in the USA.
    I realize the economics of airlines, and we were ripe for a take over. Just sad to see the unique purple and red corporate culture of Virgin disappear into a sea of navy blue, like all other US carriers...

    • Comment 543286 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5136 Comments

      Hi KentSFO, thanks so much for taking the time to comment and I'm glad you enjoyed the review!

      We were always instructed to pull the shades down in First, to highlight the white seats and the

      purple mood lighting
      I assumed that was the case and this is always how It had been on pre-merger VX flights I remember. I didn't think AS and VX cabin crews had come to a single contract yet, so I didn't think they were flying together yet...or flying each other's metal. Maybe I missed that part?

      premium wines and Sparkling Wine (not from a can!)

      Being that SFO was THE VX home base with Napa and Sonoma up the street, I can't imagine VX would have ever even considered serving canned bubbly, haha

      Just sad to see the unique purple and red corporate culture of Virgin disappear into a sea of navy blue, like all other US carriers...

      Couldn't agree more--VX was a breath of fresh air. Personally, I feel like they would have made a better pairing with JetBlue than Alaska.

  • Comment 542814 by
    socalnow GOLD 980 Comments

    Thank you for the great phots and excellent report. I am nostalgic for Virgin America.

    The AS/AA deal makes me concerned for Mileage Plan. I don't see how it can continue to be as lucrative and out of step with Alliance carriers. Hoping for the best.

    Happy flying.

    • Comment 543287 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5136 Comments

      Hey Socalnow,

      The AS/AA deal makes me concerned for Mileage Plan

      I wasn't at first, but now I'm 100% convinced Mileage Plan with be "enhanced" into oblivion--I do think it'll take a few years for that to happen so let's enjoy it while we can! We have a year or two of having our cAAke and eAAting it too!

      I don't see how it can continue to be as lucrative and out of step with Alliance carriers. Hoping for the best.

      Hoping the best as well. It'll probably continue to be more generous than AAdvantage (which is easy to do), but to a much lesser degree so as not to piss off other ow carriers too much. Though *A carriers seem to coexist with some pretty generous FFPs in the mix.

      Thanks for your comments!

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