Review of Alaska Airlines flight New York San Diego in Domestic First

Airline Alaska Airlines
Flight AS394
Seat --
Aircraft Boeing 737-900ER
Flight time 06:15
Take-off 29 Aug 21, 16:55
Arrival at 29 Aug 21, 20:10
AS   #9 out of 66 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 73 reviews
KévinDC
By GOLD 990
Published on 24th October 2021

introduction


Hello and welcome to this 2nd review in this pandemic-era series of flights. 

After spending the summer in southwestern France with family, it was time to head home to the U.S. before the little one was due to begin preschool. Unlike the 3-segment routing on the way to France, which got us to a closer airport (Toulouse), we flew a simpler 2-segment routing from Paris back to San Diego with an overnight in New York. 

I had built the overnight stay into the itinerary to break up the trip and make it easier on our 2-year-old. It was a good opportunity to check out the TWA Hotel again. I'd stayed there once previously, shortly after it opened two years ago. If you're interested, you'll find that TWA Hotel review at the end of the previous report.

The day of the flight, we checked out of the hotel and headed to Jones Beach for a bit to get some fresh air and have our son to run around and get out some of that toddler energy out prior to our transcontinental flight home to San Diego.


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routing


As mentioned, this was a simple 2-segment routing. Check out the first leg if you missed it–link below.

Flights in this series:


Routing


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pre-flight & check-in


After dropping off the rental car, we hopped on the AirTrain to Terminal 7.


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Decent line up at Terminal 1 as we went past, though obviously not as busy as pre-pandemic times. 


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The Delta parking stands where the iconic Pan Am WorldPort (Terminal 3) once stood. R.I.P. 😢


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Hadn't seen one of these guys in ages!


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We sped past the TWA Hotel at Terminal 5, where we'd checked out that morning…
So beautiful, but such mixed feelings about that experience! 


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Check in was very quick as it was a domestic flight without all the additional document checks of the previous leg. It also helped that there was no one else at the First class/Priority ticket counters.

We were through TSA pre-check in no time.  


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alaska lounge jfk


The Alaska lounge had re-opened since our previous time through this terminal in June, so we headed straight for the lounge. 

Alaska Airlines is the only US carrier to allow First class passengers access to its lounges on domestic itineraries–this is one of the many reasons why Alaska is becoming my preferred carrier since moving to the West Coast. 

The Alaska lounge is located upstairs–it was recently remodelled.  


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The shiplap walls give off a rustic Alaskan energy while looking clean and modern–my perception is surely shaped by Joanna Gaine's popularisation of the look in HGTV's "Fixer Upper" a few years ago. 


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The planters inside the walls adds a nice natural touch–again, feels very Alaskan.


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The inside of the lounge is anything but rustic, however.


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The subway tile appears to be a nod to New York City. 


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The lounge is quite spacious and light-filled with two huge walls of windows. It's a good-sized lounge considering Alaska's relatively small New York JFK operation, with less than 10 flights/day currently.


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We easily found a quiet corner with some nice views.


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The food offering is quite decent by US carrier standards, with some fresh options and 2 soups. 

You can build your own Caesar salad with cheese, croutons, and roasted chicken breast. There was also a complimentary sparkling rosé, which I appreciated. 


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boARDING


Our flight's boarding was announced in the lounge. It was a short walk to the gate–this is one of the nice things about the smaller Terminal 7.


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We arrived at the gate just as First class boarding began. Gate agents made several announcements asking passengers in other boarding zones to remain seated to avoid crowding of the boarding lanes, which I appreciated. 


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I'm really glad that Alaska joined the oneworld alliance this year. I've always been a fan of Alaska, but didn't often have much opportunity to fly them when I lived in DC, where I was mostly loyal to AA/BA. The timing of the AA/AS partnership and Alaska's subsequent entry to the oneworld alliance was perfect as it coincided with our move to Southern California. 


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These 737-900ERs still sport the older cabins. The new post-merger cabins can mostly be seen on ex-Virgin America airbus aircraft. 


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The main cabin was still being cleaned as First class was boarded. It was good to see that a thorough cleaning was happening on a daytime turn.  


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The "Premium Class" section has differently coloured headrests. 


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Great legroom in the first row of Economy–the buy-up to "Premium Class" includes complimentary alcoholic beverages


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Back in First class, these older seats on the 737 fleet are comfortable as they are well-padded with a good amount of legroom. 


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Each seat is equipped with a USB port and 110V AC power outlet. 


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While pre-departure drink services still hadn't returned to Alaska flights at the time (or any other US carriers for that matter), there were waters and sanitising wipes at each seat upon boarding.

I'd never seen water in a carton before! While I certainly appreciate the gesture and the biodegradable nature of the packaging, the water did have a slight cardboard taste. 


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There are four rows of seats in First class on the 737-900/ER. Seats are laid out in a standard 2-2 configuration and offer a generous 40" seat pitch and 20-21" of width between armrests. A 40" seat pitch is above average for Domestic US configurations, which typically have 37-38" seat pitch. This gives Alaska an edge on comfort for most routes, except for these longer 6h transcontinental flights where other major carriers typically run long-haul configured aircraft with fully flat seats in the premium cabin. 

I had the great pleasure of flying JetBlue Mint in the opposite direction a few months earlier and Alaska's recliner seats can't come close to Mint in terms of privacy, space, or comfort. Check out that review here if you missed it. 

I will say that Alaska First class is typically priced well below JetBlue and other competing carriers offering flat beds in Business. 


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At the next gate over was a BA 777–which seems to be all BA send to JFK anymore. I will certainly miss seeing beautiful BA 747s at Terminal 7 and at my new home-airport SAN! The most upsetting of several cancelled pandemic-era bookings, was a flight on the upper deck of the BA Queen of the Skies from SAN originally booked for summer 2020. Of course, it never happened as the entire fleet was retired, and I now I'll never fly a BA 747 again 😢


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Moving on to a happier subject, in-flight entertainment…

There are no longer any in-seat screens across the Alaska fleet since they were removed from former Virgin America aircraft. Instead, streaming entertainment is available for free to passengers' personal devices.  

The IFE is available from gate-to-gate. 


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There is a large choice of movies, tv series, documentaries, music, and children's programming. 


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The interface is easy to navigate, but does not work well on some older android devices. The system had trouble launching most video on my 3 year old android tablet, but worked perfectly fine on my newer iPhone. American's streaming IFE works on all my devices, so I expected it would work on Alaska, but nope! 


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the flight


The flight was mostly full in all cabins, but boarding wrapped up relatively quickly and the cabin was ready for an on-time departure. 


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We ended up pushing back a few minutes late, however. The routing was updated to avoid storms, if I recall correctly.   


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Between normal summer thunderstorms on the East Coast and Category 4 Hurricane Ida making landfall in Louisiana, there was a lot of  severe weather to work around that day!


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We then had a typical JFK half-hour-ish taxi time before taking off. 


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It was a cloudy and stormy day across much of the country so there wasn't much to see out of the window. Plus I'd given the window seat to my son–literally the only person in the world i'd give up a window seat for 😊


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In-flight service began shortly after takeoff, though was interrupted a few times for turbulence. 

I had originally asked for a sparkling wine, but was disappointed to learn they no longer carry any, so I went for a beer instead. 


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We'd pre-ordered dinner online a few days before departure. 

Pre-order is available between 2 weeks and 20 hours before the flight.  


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We each ordered one of the 3 options.

I had the Miso marinated cod. It was tasty and fresh, and an overflowing generous portion size, but a bit dry. It seems the farro pilaf absorbed most of the sesame-miso butter sauce. 

Alaskan cod marinated in white miso and rice wine.
Sesame-garlic farro pilaf, sautéed  yu choy, bell peppers, shiitake mushrooms
sesame-miso butter sauce 


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Ravioli with Citrus Sauce

Fresh ravioli with grilled scallions, sautéed summer squashes, asparagus, crumbled cotija cheese
white wine citrus sauce 


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As Alaska don't offer a child meal option in First class, I ordered the fruit & cheese plate for my son as it was the smallest of the options, but still way to much food for a 2-year-old. The actual fruit & cheese plate (excluding the salad, bread, and dessert) appears to be exactly the same that's available for purchase in Economy.

Beecher's Flagship cheese, Tillamook sharp cheddar and brie,
crackers, and Seattle Chocolate truffle 


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My son slept for the rest of the flight, which allowed me to watch a movie and do some reading. 


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Before we knew it, we were landing in San Diego as the sun dipped below the horizon. 


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With the airport so close to downtown, there are always spectacular views of the city when sitting on the left side of the aircraft. 


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With only one runway, taxi time is always short at SAN and we ended up arriving at the gate about 15 minutes early despite our late start in New York. 


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Seeing this tells me I'm home 😊


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Thanks for reading!

See more

Verdict

Alaska Airlines

7.5/10
Cabin6.0
Cabin crew8.5
Entertainment/wifi7.5
Meal/catering8.0

Alaska Lounge - 7

7.5/10
Comfort8.5
Meal/catering7.5
Entertainment/wifi7.0
Services7.0

New York - JFK

7.5/10
Efficiency7.0
Access7.0
Services8.5
Cleanliness7.5

San Diego - SAN

8.5/10
Efficiency8.5
Access9.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.5

Conclusion

Another lovely flight with one of my favourite airlines. The service was friendly and the catering above average by current pandemic-era standards in the US. Heck, it's still above average even by pre-pandemic standards. The lack of sparkling wine was a shame though.

I'm fine with streaming IFE to personal devices on domestic flights, though I much prefer seat-back screens. I do wish that there were tablet/phone holders as it's not ideal to look down for several hours. There are eye-level device-holders in the newer Alaska cabins.

The seats themselves are comfortable for day flights, but not great for sleeping. While most other carriers offer flat beds in the premium cabin on transcons these days, Alaska offer great service and competitive pricing. I loved flying JetBlue Mint on this route and hope to do so again, but in this instance Alaska First class was almost half the price of Mint.

Related

9 Comments

If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 584063 by
    ChrisB GOLD 803 Comments

    Hi Kevin
    interesting report we don't see alaska that often being reported.

    I have the feeling that you might be a guy that likes bubbly drinks? :p
    "Alaska Airlines is the only US carrier to allow First class passengers access to its lounges on domestic itineraries–" Really??? I had no idea! You can't go to a lounge like here in europe if you're travelling business or are a gold card holder?
    The seats are still thick and wide, shame npt full flat but still better than J in europe and especially compares to the worse im europe : BA!
    The catering seemed nice indeed - was this a strawberry pie?
    Cheers mate!

  • Comment 584064 by
    ChrisB GOLD 803 Comments

    Oh and forgot to ask - why were all the window blinds closed? Have you noticed it?

    • Comment 584065 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 5607 Comments

      Hey Chris, thanks for your comments!

      I have the feeling that you might be a guy that likes bubbly drinks? :p

      Haha yup, love all kinds of bubbly I don’t discriminate 😂

      Really??? I had no idea! You can't go to a lounge like here in europe if you're travelling business or are a gold card holder?

      Correct! US carriers have very exclusionary lounge access rules. No lounge for Domestic First class or for US-based elites on wholly domestic itineraries. The main exception being the premium NYC<->LAX/SFO premium transcons. Passengers with elite status on foreign carriers CAN usually access lounges however. So for example, a BA Gold can have access to AA lounges flying DFW-LAX but an actual AA Executive Platinum with the same oneworld Emerald status as the BA Gold will be denied access on that same flight!!! A holder of status with AA can’t get into an AA lounge, but a BA elite can….it’s absolute madness! The main reason is that there are too many elites in the US, but say build more lounges and bigger lounges!

      The catering seemed nice indeed - was this a strawberry pie?

      Yes, a delicious strawberry tarte

      Oh and forgot to ask - why were all the window blinds closed? Have you noticed it?

      Yes, standard practice in the US in the summer to avoid the cabin getting too hot during boarding on a warm day.
      Virgin America used to do this all year round to show off the mood lighting during boarding haha

      Thanks a lot for stopping by!
      Bon dimanche 😊

  • Comment 584075 by
    Leadership TEAM GOLD 5184 Comments

    Hi Kevin, great and comprehensive report once again.
    I really like the refreshed AS Lounge, it has a rustic and authentic style that remind me of the new CX Lounges.
    In the US, you have lounges bathed in natural light but once aboard, everyone keep their shades closed...
    Cabin looks dated imo, especially with the carpet wallpaper.
    Not too impressed by the catering : no PDB, all served in one tray, plain salad as starter, no second service.

    • Comment 584106 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 5607 Comments

      Hi Leader, thanks a lot for your comments!

      In the US, you have lounges bathed in natural light but once aboard, everyone keep their shades closed...

      Hah, I think it depends which airport or which side of the building the lounge is located (i.e. direct sun of not). I've been to plenty of US lounges where the shades were closed. most recently the AA lounge in DFW Terminal D

      Cabin looks dated imo, especially with the carpet wallpaper.

      For sure! These were installed in 2012-2014 and already look very 90's. The newer cabins are much more modern (future report), but these older seats are better padded..as seems to always be the case these days.

      Not too impressed by the catering : no PDB, all served in one tray, plain salad as starter, no second service.

      No US carriers have done PDBs since the beginning of the pandemic...I didn't think any European carriers were either, at least IB aren't from recent experience. Regarding the catering, it's the beginning of a return to normalcy. A few months ago, no US carriers were serving hot meals on domestic flights (even long transcons and premium NYC-LAX/SFO), and meal service was never coursed out on longer domestic flights except maybe NYC-LAX/SFO on the US3 IIRC, B6 being the exception. I've also never seen a full second service either, except East Coast to Hawaii. There's usually a pass of the snack basket before arrival though...I may have missed it as I dosed off a bit towards the end. If this were a short TATL flight like DUB-BOS I would expect a 2nd service, but not on domestic...the price of a DUB-BOS in J would also be 3X higher. The level of service you describe essentially only exists on B6 for domestic flights, which is what sets them apart and makes them so great.

      Thanks for sharing!

  • Comment 584121 by
    Esteban TEAM GOLD 14375 Comments

    Hi Kévin,

    Thank you very much for that review, I was curious to see what AS serves in domestic F for a transcon flight.

    While the hot entrees look ok, the cheese plate is ridiculeous, as you said, same as in coach but plated on a dish ^^

    I really like the old AS cabin, the seats are wide and comfy, ok, one must like black, but I like them :)

    Thanks again for sharing!

    • Comment 584129 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 5607 Comments

      Hey Stephan, appreciate your comments!

      I was curious to see what AS serves in domestic F for a transcon flight.

      Nothing great, but on par or better than what the US3 serve on "non-premium" transcons. Again, except B6 Mint, which is in a class by itself! VX did better on transcons in the pre-merger days...better seats and better catering...I really miss VX

      While the hot entrees look ok, the cheese plate is ridiculeous, as you said, same as in coach but plated on a dish ^^

      Yup, I had the cheese plate in Y 2 weeks ago and it is definitely the same 🤣

      I really like the old AS cabin, the seats are wide and comfy, ok, one must like black, but I like them :)

      They are very comfy. The padding is very nice compared to new slimmer seats. Just missing a legrest...there's enough room with the 40" pitch.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Comment 584126 by
    757Fan 610 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this report, Kevin. I've had a few pleasant flights with Alaska myself, and when they offered recipricol upgrades with Delta, took advantage of a few good flights between SEA-MSP back a few years ago.

    The food looks decent, but I'm interested that they offer the fruit/cheese plate in the same way that it would be presented in Economy, except for being on a plate. You'd think there would be some difference there ...

    Looking forward to your next report!

    • Comment 584130 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 5607 Comments

      Hey Matthew, always appreciate your thoughts!

      I've had a few pleasant flights with Alaska myself, and when they offered recipricol upgrades with Delta, took advantage of a few good flights between SEA-MSP back a few years ago.

      Ah yes, back when DL and AS were friends...and then turned into frenemies once DL built us SEA...and now just plain old competitors. DL's loss was AA's and oneworld's gain...and I'm thankful for that 😊

      the fruit/cheese plate in the same way that it would be presented in Economy, except for being on a plate. You'd think there would be some difference there ...

      Yeah, I realised that when I ordered that fruit and cheese plate in Y a few weeks ago...kinda made me feel ripped off they would just plate a Y BOB item and serve it as a First class meal option! The other options were much better luckily.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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