Alaska Premium Class / 737-800 / Seattle-Milwaukee

 
 

AIRLINE: Alaska Airlines »

ROUTE: Seattle to Milwaukee

FLIGHT TIME: 3h 26m

DATE: February 14, 2019

AIRCRAFT TYPE: Boeing 737-800 »

CLASS OF SERVICE: Premium Class »

SEAT: 6B

Alaska Airlines has configured its 737-800 with 12 seats in First Class, 30 seats in Premium Class, and 117 seats in Coach. It treats Premium Class as a separate class from Coach, differentiated by 4 inches of additional legroom, early boarding, and complimentary alcoholic beverages and premium snacks. I was upgraded for free to Premium Class as an MVP Gold that I received through a status match offer.

The boarding process was non-eventful and on time. Around the time the boarding process neared completion, the captain came on the PA system and announced that one of the seats in the cockpit was broken and needed to be replaced and said we would take off about 90 minutes late. I heard moans and groans from other passengers about why they even boarded us in the first place, but honestly I’d rather sit on the plane where everyone has a seat than in the crowded gate area. The Captain did a great job of communicating throughout the delay, and even walked up and down the cabin chatting with passengers. The issue was resolved quicker than expected and we ended up taking off a little over an hour late, but made up some time enroute and landed 40 minutes behind schedule.

The inflight service was good. The staff was incredibly friendly and engaged. Cabin service was offered multiple times - though the food for purchase was not great.

Once on the ground in Milwaukee, it took a very long time for the luggage to fully arrive. We waited nearly 20 minutes for the first round, but then there was close to a 20 minute break before the next round of bags arrived. There was no announcement as to why there was a delay and I’ve never had issues with waiting for bags in Milwaukee on other carriers. It took 45 minutes to get all of my bags - there were probably 30 people still waiting when my final bag arrived.

Overall Impression: Alaska’s product is a mixed bag - it’s above average in some areas, average in others, and below average in a few. I like that Alaska treats Premium Class as a differentiated product between First Class and Coach, not just seats with additional legroom, as some of its peers treat that segment of the market.

The soft product was very good - the service was incredibly friendly. I liked how the flight attendants came around again and offered another round of drinks. You can always ask for more, but many times airlines only offer it once, regardless of the length of the flight. Free texting is a HUGE benefit and service differentiator.

I also like that Alaska has a true First Class cabin. It is a much smaller airline than the Big 3 legacy airlines (American, United, and Delta), but still offers many of the same amenities.

The hard product is average. The seats were comfortable, but seemed a little worn down. I’m also not a big fan of how most airlines have moved away from seat back IFE systems in favor of streaming to personal devices - Alaska included.

One area in particular that was a little frustrating was the luggage situation. I understand it might have been out of their control (possibly an issue on that day with the airport), but there was zero communication from the staff as to the reason for the delay. I was also surprised that they didn’t place priority tags on MVP elite’s bags or First Class bags, as other airlines do. I know that is a very trivial (and semi-entitled statement), but it makes a huge difference for frequent flyers, many of whom are business travelers that depend on expeditious travel arrangements due to business requirements.

Recommendation: Alaska is a good alternative to the Big 3 and Southwest. However, they are much smaller in scale, especially in the Midwest and on the East Coast. If you are flying up and down the West Coast, there are ample flight options. But many of the destinations to the East are only offered once or twice a day, leaving little room for rebooking options if there are flight disruptions (as was the case a few days before my flight when Seattle got hammered by a snow storm).

In spite of my positive experience in Premium Class, I wouldn’t suggest paying extra for it. The extra legroom is great and free alcoholic beverages are always a plus, but is it really worth the extra cost (upgrades went for $79 on my flight and might be higher or lower based on the length of the flight)? I personally wouldn’t pay extra for it.

I’ll fly Alaska again if the price and flight options are competitive, but I won’t go out of my way or pay extra to do so.

 
Alaska offers the option of self-tagging your bags. Make sure to order the tag holders (for free) at least 2-3 weeks before your trip if you want to use this option. This is supposed to be beneficial in saving time at the airport. I did it just to give it a try, but as an MVP Gold I had access to the elite check-in line at the airport, so it didn’t really save any time. Though I did notice the line for bag drop was much shorter than the non-elite check-in line. So I definitely suggest doing this if you want to save time at the airport.

Alaska offers the option of self-tagging your bags. Make sure to order the tag holders (for free) at least 2-3 weeks before your trip if you want to use this option. This is supposed to be beneficial in saving time at the airport. I did it just to give it a try, but as an MVP Gold I had access to the elite check-in line at the airport, so it didn’t really save any time. Though I did notice the line for bag drop was much shorter than the non-elite check-in line. So I definitely suggest doing this if you want to save time at the airport.

Alaska’s trip interface is functional, but very basic. I was a little surprised that there was no place on the App to find airport maps. I ended up just using a different airline App to get detailed information of Seattle during my layover.

Alaska’s trip interface is functional, but very basic. I was a little surprised that there was no place on the App to find airport maps. I ended up just using a different airline App to get detailed information of Seattle during my layover.

Alaska offers the option of reserving meals for purchase ahead of your flight. If plan to purchase food on the flight and want to guarantee your choice will be available, I highly suggest doing so ahead of time. The flight attendants made an announcement during the flight that there were limited quantities of each option and they might sell out before reaching seats in the rear of the aircraft.

Alaska offers the option of reserving meals for purchase ahead of your flight. If plan to purchase food on the flight and want to guarantee your choice will be available, I highly suggest doing so ahead of time. The flight attendants made an announcement during the flight that there were limited quantities of each option and they might sell out before reaching seats in the rear of the aircraft.

You don’t have to pay for the meal at the time of the request - you pay when you receive the food onboard. You’re also not obligated to follow through with the purchase. The flight attendant knew I had ordered food when he arrived at my seat and asked me if I was still interested in what I had preordered.

You don’t have to pay for the meal at the time of the request - you pay when you receive the food onboard. You’re also not obligated to follow through with the purchase. The flight attendant knew I had ordered food when he arrived at my seat and asked me if I was still interested in what I had preordered.

Premium Class is treated as a separate class of service, that offers more than Coach but less than First Class. Premium class is arranged in a 3x3 layout, but has an additional 4” of legroom (over Coach), features early boarding, and includes complimentary alcoholic beverages and premium snacks. Seats are available for purchase at the time of booking, or you can purchase the upgrade anytime prior to your flight. Alaska MPV elites are automatically upgraded when space is available and within the appropriate upgrade window.

Premium Class is treated as a separate class of service, that offers more than Coach but less than First Class. Premium class is arranged in a 3x3 layout, but has an additional 4” of legroom (over Coach), features early boarding, and includes complimentary alcoholic beverages and premium snacks. Seats are available for purchase at the time of booking, or you can purchase the upgrade anytime prior to your flight. Alaska MPV elites are automatically upgraded when space is available and within the appropriate upgrade window.

I was able to snag the seats immediately behind First Class.

I was able to snag the seats immediately behind First Class.

Alaska does not have a hard bulkhead separating First Class and Premium Class on the 737-800. The armrests are immovable and the tray table is in the armrest, but you have more legroom than any other row on the plane, to include First Class. The curtain was slightly intrusive, especially during takeoff, but the additional legroom was more than enough to offset the slight annoyance.

Alaska does not have a hard bulkhead separating First Class and Premium Class on the 737-800. The armrests are immovable and the tray table is in the armrest, but you have more legroom than any other row on the plane, to include First Class. The curtain was slightly intrusive, especially during takeoff, but the additional legroom was more than enough to offset the slight annoyance.

The seats feature moveable headrests. They were comfortable, but seemed slightly worn down and tired. There is no seat back Inflight Entertainment system, but free streaming content is available to personal devices.

The seats feature moveable headrests. They were comfortable, but seemed slightly worn down and tired. There is no seat back Inflight Entertainment system, but free streaming content is available to personal devices.

More legroom in Row 6 than any other row on the plane.

More legroom in Row 6 than any other row on the plane.

I’m 6’0” and had nearly a foot separating my knees and the seats in front.

I’m 6’0” and had nearly a foot separating my knees and the seats in front.

Excellent legroom in Row 6.

Excellent legroom in Row 6.

There are two 110V universal style power outlets and USB power ports for three seats in Row 6.

There are two 110V universal style power outlets and USB power ports for three seats in Row 6.

Part of the floating divider that separates First Class and Premium Class.

Part of the floating divider that separates First Class and Premium Class.

Parked next to another Alaska 737 wearing the old livery in Seattle.

Parked next to another Alaska 737 wearing the old livery in Seattle.

Alaska refreshed its brand in early 2016.

Alaska refreshed its brand in early 2016.

Alaska offers internet for purchase, provided by GoGo.

Alaska offers internet for purchase, provided by GoGo.

Alaska has joined Delta and Southwest in offering free texting while inflight.

Alaska has joined Delta and Southwest in offering free texting while inflight.

What a feast! Premium Class passengers receive complimentary alcoholic beverages and premium snacks (the barkthins). As an MVP Gold I also received the milk chocolate bar. The flight attendant thanked me for being a Gold member before handing it to me. I had pre-ordered the chicken pesto sandwich to give it a try. It wasn’t very good, especially for $9.50. The sandwich was very dry and kind of bland. I suggest spending that money for food at the airport or just bring your own, rather than paying for food onboard.

What a feast! Premium Class passengers receive complimentary alcoholic beverages and premium snacks (the barkthins). As an MVP Gold I also received the milk chocolate bar. The flight attendant thanked me for being a Gold member before handing it to me. I had pre-ordered the chicken pesto sandwich to give it a try. It wasn’t very good, especially for $9.50. The sandwich was very dry and kind of bland. I suggest spending that money for food at the airport or just bring your own, rather than paying for food onboard.

Because there are no IFE screens you can’t have the moving map up during the flight, but you can track your status by going to Alaska’s website (free access, even if you didn’t pay for the internet).

Because there are no IFE screens you can’t have the moving map up during the flight, but you can track your status by going to Alaska’s website (free access, even if you didn’t pay for the internet).

The flight attendants came around a second time about 2 hours into the flight for a second drink service.

The flight attendants came around a second time about 2 hours into the flight for a second drink service.

Sunset over western Minnesota enroute to Milwaukee.

Sunset over western Minnesota enroute to Milwaukee.

We took off over an hour late, but were able to make up about 20 minutes and arrived 40 minutes behind schedule.

We took off over an hour late, but were able to make up about 20 minutes and arrived 40 minutes behind schedule.

 

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