Shot from Bayfront Park
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.
Reports in this series
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
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.
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.
Some windows face landside, while others have tarmac views.
It was also pleasantly uncrowded that day.
Very decent food offering for a US lounge.
A little snack and a glass of white wine before boarding.
It was a bit of a long walk from the lounge to the gate around the middle of the Terminal B concourse.
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.
As mentioned earlier, First class ended up going out full.
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.
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.
Electronic seat controls
Boarding was completed on time and the cabin was readied for departure.
We pushed back from the gate on time.
Once in the air, there was a hot towel service, which is nice as it's unexpected on a shorter flight.
I had a sparkling wine…yep, it comes in a can. It's surprisingly not terrible…though I wouldn't call it good. Drinkable.
The usual snack basket service on these shorter flights.
Love that mood lighting–very relaxing.
Flying over the never-ending stretch of lights that is the L.A. Basin.
Meanwhile the baby did what he (thankfully) does best on airplanes…sleep.
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.
We landed with great views of downtown, which is always a given from the left side of the aircraft.
Taxi was quick and we got to the gate a few minutes early.
Some final views of the cabin on deplaning.
Baggage delivery was super quick, as I've often found to be the case with Alaska.
We were curbside waiting for the shuttle to the long-term parking within 20 minutes of arrival.
Shot from Bayfront Park
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.