As a relatively infrequent flyer, I mainly view myself as an airline free agent and usually just chase the best deal for any particular trip. However, I do have one exception to the rule, and that’s for flying Alaska Airlines to Hawaii.
Even though there are other options such as United, Virgin, or Hawaiian, I typically don’t even bother looking since Alaska is my go-to choice. It also helps that by using the Bank of America companion pass which gives you a 2nd ticket for $99 + taxes, it’s hard to find a better deal anyways.
The only downside is that Alaska’s schedule doesn’t always have daily nonstop flights at my preferred airport (SJC), so this time I had to fly out of Oakland on my desired travel dates. On the plus side, this officially completed the trifecta of all the Bay Area airports that Alaska flies to – SFO, SJC, and OAK.
Part of the reason that I like SJC is that I know the airport like the back of my hand. However, I hadn’t been to OAK since my days at UC Berkeley, and my deliberative nature had me feeling a bit anxious given our 7AM departure time. In particular, sometimes security lines can be a complete zoo in the early morning.
So much to my wife’s chagrin, I made plans to arrive extra early and of course everything went smoothly, and we were through the TSA pre-check line and at the gate with plenty of time to spare. The great thing about early morning flights is that there are no surprises – the plane is almost always waiting for you at the gate already, and if its not, well your flight has probably been cancelled. As expected, our plane was already waiting for us at gate 10 and waiting to take us to sunny Hawaii.
Even though the companion pass can no longer be used to purchase First Class tickets outright, there are a couple workarounds for MVG Gold and 75K elite members to sit up front. One method is to purchase the cheapest fare and use Gold Guest Upgrades (GGU’s), assuming that there is First Class upgrade space available. The other method is to select MVP Gold under the “Upgrade Fare type” filter at the time of booking. If a black “U” shows up, that means that instant First Class upgrade space is available for that economy ticket, which typically costs a bit more than the lowest cost option.
Alaska gets beat up a bit over the quality of its First Class product, and admittedly I’d either be lying or delusional to claim that it’s one of the best domestic products out there. For example, Hawaiian Airlines just upgraded its product to include a lie-flat seat over the old style recliners.
But everything is a trade-off – especially for mid to top tier elites, Alaska Airlines provides such easy access to First Class between the Gold Guest Upgrades (GGU’s) and instant upgrades at booking that it makes sense that they aren’t investing a lot in upgrading the product. Nonetheless, in my opinion, the seat is perfectly comfortable for the 5-hour trip across the Pacific Ocean.
As usual the service on the flight was great and we had a couple wonderful flight attendants looking after us during the flight. After boarding, they came by with the customary POG pre-departure welcome drink.
Menus were already distributed at the seats, and given that one dish had meat and the other didn’t, my mind was made up in an instant.
Shortly after take-off meal service began with drink service and pretzels.
Next up was the fruit plate, which was sprinkled with chili powder, which I’m not really a big fan of. Why would you do this to fruit, why!?!?
The ham and pineapple quiche was a buttery disk of deliciousness.
Digi-players were passed out and were complimentary for First Class passengers. I had already seen all the movies on here but hadn’t self-catered any IFE, so just ended up re-watching Star Wars and Deadpool. The edited cut of Deadpool was borderline offensive and in the change from its original R-rated version to PG-13, completely neutered the heart and soul of an otherwise great movie.
The time flew by and about an hour before landing the flight attendants came by with the snack basket.
The picturesque views on the descent into Maui never get old. Overall this was another great flight with Alaska Airlines and with it, will certainly keep me from looking elsewhere for future flights to Hawaii.