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.
Reports in this series
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.
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.
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.
Spotted this sexy JAL 787 on the way to our gate.
It was a bit of a haul to the gate at the end of the concourse.
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.
Welcome aboard this Virgin America…I mean Alaska A320
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.
As mentioned above, there are only 8 seats laid out in a 2-2- configuration in the very spacious First class cabin.
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.
Soooo spacious! ♥
As is usually the case with Alaska, there is no pre-departure drink service, though small bottles of water are distributed.
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.
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!
The non-retrofitted ex-Virgin aircraft still have a working IFE system.
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.
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.
Nice views of the channel islands as I sipped on my canned bubbly.
As soon as my glass was empty, the Flight attendant working First came by to offer a top up.
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.
Always love flying over California and the West coast in general. So beautiful and mountainous.
And golf courses everywhere.
Super dense residential areas, very common in California, as I've come to learn.
We landed ahead of schedule
International and long-haul routes have really grown out of SJC over the past several years.
These guys pretty much own the airport.
Though Alaska also has a decent presence here–though nothing compared to the SFO hub up the street.
Oh look, we landed early and we have a gate ready! That never happened on AA.
And we park next to Hotdog-on-a-stick Airlines.
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.
Some final views of the cabin as we disembark.
Welcome to San Jose!
I was impressed with how nice and new the terminal was. I guess that's what Silicon Valley money gets you!
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 ^^)