The airline with the best average rating is American Airlines with 7.2/10.
The average flight time is 5 hours and 54 minutes.More information
Hello and welcome to the 2nd part of this new short series of pandemic-era flights.
We needed to get to DC for a wedding in early October, but there were no longer any nonstop oneworld options from San Diego since Alaska dropped the route last year. We opted for nonstops in and out of LAX since we were only going for the weekend. The route is served by both US-based oneworld carriers, American and Alaska.
Though this routing is comprised of mostly unremarkable domestic flights, the outbound flight would be my first time on a 737 MAX and the return would be my first time flying an Alaska Airlines A321neo.
Reviews in this series:
The morning of the flight we arrived at the airport about 2 hours before departure as we had to return the rental car and had baggage and a car seat to check.
One of the nice things about DCA is that the rental car garage is located across from the terminal building so you can easily walk between the two.
There was no wait at the Alaska Airlines priority counter for First class and oneworld frequent flyer status holders so we were on our way to security in minutes.
The beauty of my former home airport still amazes me each visit.
As you can see there was a loooooong line at the Terminal B security checkpoint. Fortunately for us, this was for the standard security lanes only–there was absolutely no wait at TSA pre-check.
Back in pre-pandemic times, lines for pre-check could be just as long–though they always moved fast. I've now witnessed this phenomenon of very long queues for standard security and empty Pre-check lanes on almost every domestic trip this year. This seems to be evidence of the huge uptick in leisure travel in the US since mass vaccinations began, while business travel has remained well below 2019 levels. That and I also assume a lot of people let their TSA pre-check and Global Entry lapse during the pandemic.
Whatever the reason, it's always nice avoid those long queues and the additional stress!
TSA agents were very nice and gave my son a DCA TSA officer badge sticker, which he wore proudly with a big smile!
The crowds in the concourse on this random October day were another testament to the domestic travel recovery.
Boarding hadn't yet begun when we arrived at the gate so I was able to check out our aircraft. Unfortunately, this is the best view I could get from the gate.
It was surprisingly (and pleasantly) uncrowded at the gate, even though the flight would be completely full. The gate agents made several announcements not to crowd the boarding lanes…and people actually listened!
We boarded right after First class in Group A, which according to Alaska is reserved for Alaska MVP Gold/Gold 75K and equivalent oneworld Sapphire and Emerald
Being among the first to board in the main cabin, it was nice to get a good view of the cabin without many passengers.
A nice and modern cabin on this A321neo with some pleasant mood-lighting, somewhat reminiscent of the Virgin America days, but a bit denser and without seatback entertainment screens, of course.
As part of the new American Airlines-Alaska Airlines partnership, AA frequent flyer status holders flying AS Economy have access to Alaska Premium Class seats, while AS frequent flyers have access to Main Cabin Extra when flying AA.
Despite all 3 of us having AA Platinum and above status on eligible fares, the system did not allow us complimentary access to Premium class as we had booked the tickets before these benefits were announced. We settled on seats right behind Premium class in row 11–knowing that row 10 is an exit row and not an option when flying with a child.
Be warned that there is a flight attendant jumpseat in front of seat 11D, which restricts legroom slightly…and blocks the view a bit.
The positive side is that there is no passenger in front that can recline their seat–it's almost like a bulkhead seat, but mid-cabin.
Note that the combo AC/USB power unit is under the seat in 11D, whereas it's in the seatback at every other seat.
Legroom in other seats in row 11 is actually very good–definitely above average by today's standards for domestic Economy cabins.
Interesting that the safety card does not mention this is an A321neo.
These seats are well-designed with a literature pocket higher on the seat back, which adds room in the knee area.
As mentioned earlier, there are individual power outlets and USB ports in the seatbacks.
Aside from the safety card, there is an entertainment guide and beverage menu in the literature pocket.
The streaming IFE is available from gate-to-gate.
There is a large selection of films, TV series, documentaries, music, games, and kids programming.
My kid always prefers to watch his own content, but it's nice to have more streaming option if ever needed.
There is also free messaging through the Wi-Fi. Note that the IFE system displays flying time, but there is no moving map as far as I can tell.
Boarding wrapped up on time and doors were closed well before scheduled departure time.
We pushed back from the gate a few minutes ahead of schedule.
When we began taxiing north, I knew we'd be taking off to the south, which unfortunately means no views of the city today.
Taxi time was very short and we took off heading south on RWY 19
While there are no views of DC in this configuration, there is a nice view of Alexandria and its iconic George Washington Masonic National Memorial modelled after the ancient Egyptian wonder, the great lighthouse of Alexandria.
It was cloudy over much of the eastern part of the country so there wasn't much to see out of the window.
Luckily, there's the streaming IFE, which can be enjoyed without straining your neck thanks to a well-placed eye-level device holder integrated to each seat-back.
Unlike oneworld partner American Airlines, Alaska rolled out a pre-order food programme for Economy earlier in the year. This is especially appreciated on longer transcon flights like this one.
There are several fresh options, which are available for pre-order online from 20 days to 20 hours prior to the flight.
I'd ordered several items for the three of us to try out throughout the 5h flight.
At $8.50 each, the breakfast wrap and fruit & cheese plates are a decent value.
The wrap is huge and comes with grapes and apple slices.
The cheese plate is also quite copious and exactly the same served in First class, minus the starter and dessert courses.
The Mediterranean Tapas box cost less than the other two items and has no fresh content.
The free snack service was actually a good-sized bag of Chex mix–much larger than the small bags of pretzels or biscoffs served on AA on similar length flights.
We were also each given a chocolate, which came complimentary with every order.
The long A321neo cabin in flight
Skies cleared up over the Midwest
Always important to have activities for the little one on long fligths
As always, there was beautiful desert scenery as we overflew the southwestern States.
About an hour before arrival, flight attendants came through the cabin for another full drink service.
Overflying the Mojave Desert as we approach our destination.
It gets greener and denser once over the San Gabriel mountains.
Looks like there's a layer of smog hanging over the L.A. basin.
The cabin is prepared for arrival as we begin our final descent.
The immensity of the L.A. metropolitan area never ceases to amaze me.
There are always nice views of downtown from the right side of the aircraft when the weather is clear.
The huge SoFi Stadium complex on landing
Though we only left the gate a few minutes early in DC, we landed over 50 minutes early.
We pulled in to the gate a whopping 45 minutes before scheduled arrival time! Partly due to good winds, but also to padded schedule times.
View of the First class cabin on deplaning.
Last view of our A321neo.
Welcome to LAX! Thanks to the early arrival we were at the car at the remote parking lot before scheduled arrival time.
Another good flight with Alaska Airlines. The cabin is nice and the seats have good legroom. Features like streaming IFE, individual AC power, USB ports, and eye-level tablet holders are great for the passenger experience, though on longer domestic flights like this I prefer seat-back IFE. The seats were generally comfortable and had adjustable headrests, though the padding on these slimline models is a bit thin, but still fine for flights up to 5 or 6 hours like this. Cabin crew were friendly and regularly in the cabin between services--they also did two full drink/snack services on this flight, whereas there's usually one service on AA flights of similar length in my experience.