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

Airline Alaska Airlines
Flight AS1118
Seat 2A
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 01:30
Take-off 25 Aug 19, 21:25
Arrival at 25 Aug 19, 22:55
AS   #108 out of 138 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 66 reviews
KévinDC
By SILVER 565
Published on 11th February 2020

introduction


Hello and welcome to the second and final segment in this short series of Alaska Airlines domestic First class reviews. 
There's a Plane-spotting bonus at the end of this review for the #AvGeeks ✈
   
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.

We'd only bought our tickets a few weeks before the flight and the cabin was completely empty, which leads me to believe that the majority of passengers in First the day of departure were Elite Upgrades as F went out completely full. 


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Reports in this series


Routing


check-in & lounge


As our flight wasn't departing until 9:25PM, we dropped off the rental car a little over 2 hours early and figured we'd spend some time in the lounge prior to departure. Unlike SAN, which, as I'd mentioned in the previous review, doesn't have any Priority Pass lounges, SJC has two decent lounges.

Once again, check-in was a breeze with no wait at the First class/Elite counters. We dropped off one bag and car seat with a friendly agent and were on our way. 

TSA Pre-check was also super quick with only a few people in line in front of us. 

In a few minutes we were airside–Terminal B has impressive modern architecture


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We headed towards The Club SJC, which is located in the connector where Terminals A and B meet.

Spotted this beautiful BA 787-9 on the way. 


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The lounge is located on the upper level across from gate A15 and is accessed either through an elevator or stairs. Unfortunately, that day the elevator was out of service so we had to take the stairs, which wasn't particularly fun with a 7-month-old baby and a stroller. 

Other than that the lounge is spacious with large windows and nice views.  


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Some windows face landside, while others have tarmac views. 


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It was also pleasantly uncrowded that day.


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Very decent food offering for a US lounge.


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A little snack and a glass of white wine before boarding. 


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boarding


It was a bit of a long walk from the lounge to the gate around the middle of the Terminal B concourse. 


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As we got to the gate, boarding had already begun. We were able to board immediately through the First Class & Elite lane.

 The cabin was plunged in that familiar Virgin America mood-lighting.


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As mentioned earlier, First class ended up going out full.


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The 55" seat pitch is fantastic–the most generous of any domestic First class cabin. As mentioned in the last review, these ex-Virgin cabins with deep-recline Cradle recliner seats are being replaced with more standard recliner seats with 40" pitch–a shame and a missed opportunity. 


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The leg/calf-rest come up fairly high, thanks to the spacious layout, making these seats true cradle recliners and comfortable for sleeping. These used to be great on transcons and were very competitive when they were first rolled out, though the US3 introduced better hard products with lie-flat seats in more recent years. 


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Electronic seat controls


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the flight


Boarding was completed on time and the cabin was readied for departure.


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We pushed back from the gate on time.


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Once in the air, there was a hot towel service, which is nice as it's unexpected on a shorter flight.


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I had a sparkling wine…yep, it comes in a can. It's surprisingly not terrible…though I wouldn't call it good. Drinkable.


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The usual snack basket service on these shorter flights.


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Love that mood lighting–very relaxing.


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Flying over the never-ending stretch of lights that is the L.A. Basin.


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Meanwhile the baby did what he (thankfully) does best on airplanes…sleep.


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Soon enough we were descending and the cabin was prepared for arrival–once again, as on the previous flight, one of the seats in the front row got stuck in the recline position so a flight attendant helped to raise it manually for landing.


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We landed with great views of downtown, which is always a given from the left side of the aircraft. 


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Taxi was quick and we got to the gate a few minutes early.


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Some final views of the cabin on deplaning. 


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Baggage delivery was super quick, as I've often found to be the case with Alaska. 


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We were curbside waiting for the shuttle to the long-term parking within 20 minutes of arrival. 


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SFO plane-spotting bonus


Bonus : Click here display
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Verdict

Alaska Airlines

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

The Club SJC - A15

7.0/10
Comfort8.0
Meal/catering7.5
Entertainment/wifi7.0
Services5.5

San Jose - SJC

8.2/10
Efficiency8.5
Access8.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.5

San Diego - SAN

8.9/10
Efficiency9.0
Access9.0
Services8.5
Cleanliness9.0

Conclusion

Another very nice flight with Alaska Airlines made even better with an ex-Virgin America First class cabin. The ex-VX seats are so spacious and comfortable, but definitely showing their age as they aren't being well-maintained in anticipation of their replacement.

The cabin crew were friendly and attentive, making sure glasses never went empty and making several passes of the snack basket. Ex-Virgin airbus aircraft that still have the old cabins feature power outlets and in-seat on-demand entertainment. Though I didn't deploy the PTV on such a short flight, it's nice to have the option and it's a shame they're being ripped out in the refurbs.

Related

6 Comments

  • Comment 542085 by
    YGeorgeW GOLD 183 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this weekend trip Kevin!

    The lounge is located on the upper level across from gate A15 and is accessed either through an elevator or stairs.

    - Looks like you went to the larger of the two Clubs. I tried the other one this past weekend.

    As mentioned earlier, First class ended up going out full.

    - Given how US loyalty programs work, I've never actually flown out with a non-full first class.

    Once in the air, there was a hot towel service, which is nice as it's unexpected on a shorter flight.

    - Oh, this is a nice touch.

    I had a sparkling wine…yep, it comes in a can. It's surprisingly not terrible…though I wouldn't call it good. Drinkable.

    - Good enough that you had several on this trip :)

    Soon enough we were descending and the cabin was prepared for arrival–once again, as on the previous flight, one of the seats in the front row got stuck in the recline position so a flight attendant helped to raise it manually for landing.

    - This seems to be the usual. It happened to me as well.

    Shot from Bayfront Park

    - Judging from what planes you saw, you were there mid- to late- afternoon? I recently "hiked" the Dish trail by Stanford's campus, fun to see all the planes flying overhead.

    As a side note, I didn't realize galleries can have so many pictures now? It also seems to require more than 4 pictures as well.

    Thanks again!

    • Comment 542141 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5100 Comments

      Thanks for your comments as always!

      Looks like you went to the larger of the two Clubs. I tried the other one this past weekend.

      Yes, this is the larger one. The other one is in Terminal A where the AA Admirals Club used to be--haven't been, but I know the space is smaller.

      Given how US loyalty programs work, I've never actually flown out with a non-full first class.

      I've only seen it a handful of times...mainly Saturday morning flights and around the Holidays

      Good enough that you had several on this trip :)

      I have low standards, LOL

      Judging from what planes you saw, you were there mid- to late- afternoon?

      Exactly! I was there around 4PM-ish

      As a side note, I didn't realize galleries can have so many pictures now? It also seems to require more than 4 pictures as well.

      Yup! They've always been able to hold more than 4 pics if you create them from the Gallery tool on the left menu bar (not the auto-created galleries that hold only 4 pics at a time...I call those the "quick" galleries, lol)

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

  • Comment 542156 by
    hometoyyz SILVER 538 Comments

    Hi Kevin. Thanks for sharing the finale of this brief series.

    As our flight wasn't departing until 9:25PM

    A flight arriving at 11:00 pm with an infant? You are a brave traveler!

    A nice look at the Club at SJC — I have darkened its halls a few time, and it’s a decent place to kill some time.

     The cabin was plunged in that familiar Virgin America mood-lighting.

    I think I’ll miss that once these birds are Alaskafied. There are pluses and minuses to it, but as you suggest, it certainly is a unique touch.

    There’s something about a can of “the original house wine” that makes me giggle. It’s just so inherently silly.

    A bit blurry, but you’ve to love the arrival into SAN. Certainly one of the more memorable approaches.

    Cheers!

    • Comment 542193 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5100 Comments

      Thanks for your comments!

      A flight arriving at 11:00 pm with an infant? You are a brave traveler!

      Haha, yeah. He's a very adaptable kid, which I'm very thankful for.

      A nice look at the Club at SJC — I have darkened its halls a few time, and it’s a decent place to kill some time.

      Definitely one of the nicer Priority Pass clubs in the US. The only thing I wasn't too happy about is that there are no baby changing tables in the restrooms.

      A bit blurry, but you’ve to love the arrival into SAN. Certainly one of the more memorable approaches.

      I prob should've taken a video of landing rather than pics since going so fast at night inevitably leads to blurry photos. I love the approach into SAN, much like I loved the approach into DCA...I guess a scenic approach is a pre-requisite for living in a city for me. haha

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 542820 by
    socalnow GOLD 980 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this flight Kevin. The sunny SFO spotting pictures are a great bonus.

    I always thought it odd for Alaska to pull the Airbus, with a proper FC, off the trans-cons in favor of the inferior 737 FC. I suppose being able to sell more FC will win the day every time. It's not like us American consumers demand quality or VA would still be flying under their own brand.

    Happy flying.

    • Comment 543288 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5100 Comments

      Thanks for your comments!

      I always thought it odd for Alaska to pull the Airbus, with a proper FC, off the trans-cons in favor of the inferior 737 FC.

      I was shocked about that too in the beginning--AS could have really leveraged the superior passenger experience on those and kept a subfleet on the longer transcons, but I imagine the economics don't work out for several reasons: small subfleets are expensive to maintain, especially for a relatively small carrier like AS, and as you mention, their 737s have twice as many F seats to sell--at often similar prices to the big US3 who operate with fully flat seats! That's a win for AS, though not so much First class fare-paying passengers.

      And yes, sadly, we consumers have made our low-quality beds by overwhelmingly choosing the cheapest flights or better schedules over better products...and this is how we get to the never ending "Recline-Gates" in Y...people love to blame the airlines for not having enough space, but basically every US consumer expects $300 r/t for 6h transcons...can't have it all! Just wish this same scenario didn't also play out in premium cabins, though granted it's to a much lesser extent. And JetBlue Mint is the proof that some pax to choose based on quality of product.

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