I had been on Alaska Airlines numerous times before, but was somehow never able to write a review of the airline. This time, I decided to do so for my flight from Oakland to Maui and vice versa.
About a decade ago, Alaska Airlines was able to successfully extend their brand to Hawaii operations from all along the US West Coast. The airline does not run planes through its Seattle or Portland hubs, but instead leaves them at the Bay Area airport.
For my flight that morning from Oakland, the B737-800 was parked outside and did not have any delays, as approaching planes were slowed down because of frequent Bay Area fog. Oakland Airport is a bare-bones affair but is good at what it does. There are no lounges, though a Priority Pass lounge is being constructed there. Security is quick and simple and the whole airport excels at this, which is a welcome change from overly pretentious and crowded San Francisco Airport.
Alaska’s punctuality record is very good and it is even better for these Alaska flights as the only things standing in the way would be sick crew or extremely dense fog (which is surprisingly rare around San Francisco).
Boarding before 7AM was on autopilot (everyone seemed extra sleepy) and needless to say we took off from Oakland in a northwestern direction towards the Pacific at exactly 7AM.
Alaska has planes equipped with good-looking leather seats and the seat pitch is decent for economy. Even if I tried it would be hard to touch the seat in front of me with my knees. The airline run a drinks service twice during the flight; when I missed it I got my extra pack of water by ringing the call button.
It was an otherwise very routine flight with no turbulence, but a glaring sun that made it hard to sleep. For some reason flights to Hawaii have some extra chatty passengers fighting against the airplane noise. The excitement of a vacation is palpable.
There are IFE players for rent on this flight and the Gogo in-flight WiFi has a number of free and paid shows and movies. There is no internet as the old version of Gogo only works over the continental US, as it uses surface cell towers and not a satellite connection (like United’s WiFi).
The return flight would be a carbon copy of the outbound; boarding was supposed to start at 3.20PM and it was on the dot. Doors closed at 3.50PM and the scheduled 4PM takeoff was met with a 4PM engine roar. If Alaska has taken a page from the Delta playbook from its intense competition in Seattle, this is it – punctuality is key. The flight attendants are professional but elusive and there isn’t any attitude, positive or negative.
Both flights were full, almost to the last seat, which seems to be a constant theme with Alaska on these routes. When you are an Alaska credit cardholder, the airline provides a free companion voucher that prices a companion at $99 plus tax (with no fuel surcharges). Flights to Hawaii for two will come out at just under $600, which at $300 per person is a decent deal for a 5,000-mile trip.
In summary, Alaska delivers a quality product that seems to be the new normal. It would be great if there was working WiFi over the Pacific and some quality ‘featured’ shows instead of old documentaries (more content is available on a paid basis).
Given the effective $300 fare per person (that seems to be available all the time from almost any Bay Area airport), I’d be happy to fly Alaska again.