I might as well get this out of the way right at the start: I am a Trekkie. I have tried to love Star Wars and I can appreciate it for what it is. But I have just never been able to get into it and I know not too much about the franchise (spoiler alert: I think Darth Vader is Luke’s father and Luke is Princess Layla’s sister which caused some family awkwardness all around).
However… when you put a nice looking Star Wars livery on a 737, I can sway my sci fi space nerd alliances for one morning. This week (on what was appropriately May 4th), Alaska Airlines unveiled their newest special Disney livery.
It has an eye catching black background with many Star Wars-themed designs and a beautiful green Millennium Falcon “emblazoned” onto the tail. And this isn’t your rattle can paint job. It took 228 gallons of paint, 540 work hours, and over 27 days to complete.
This is the seventh Disney-themed aircraft for the airline; this one celebrates Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The aircraft’s official name is “Star Wars Transport to the Disneyland Resort,” but you can just call her “SWTttDR” for short.
As part of a larger trip to Australia and New Zealand, my girlfriend Molly and I recently had the opportunity to fly in multiple cabins across the Qantas international and domestic network. The trip started out with a fantastic experience in their First Class cabin (review coming shortly), followed by flights in Business Class, Premium Economy, and Economy. Today’s story will cover those short-haul flights within Australia and New Zealand.
The Qantas Economy Experience:
All our flights within Australia were operated on either a Boeing 737-800 or an Airbus A330-200, and the economy experience was fairly consistent throughout the flights. On the flights operated by a 737, there was a seat-back entertainment screen, which is always nice. For the flight on the A330, individual iPads were provided. I found the in-flight entertainment on both systems to be quite responsive, and the system had a good amount of content.
There’s quite a bit of debate around AirlineReporter as to whether it’s sensible to recline your seat. Our fearless leader, David Parker Brown, has stated multiple times that he doesn’t recline while airborne. On our Qantas flights, the whole recline situation was a bit complicated, as the Qantas seats recline a LOT. So if the passenger in front of you reclines, you really have a significant lack of personal space. As a result, if the person in front of you reclines, you pretty much have to recline as well. Thankfully, at meal time, the flight attendants were good about asking passengers to adjust their seat to the upright position.
Alert: a new player has entered the game. At long last, Southwest Airlines is flying to Hawaii. It’s a major milestone for the airline, which has had its eyes on the Hawaii prize for a years. So when the first flight departed Oakland for Honolulu on March 17th, the airline threw a BIG party to celebrate.
There were hula dancers, live musicians, cakes, speeches, and (of course) TONS of Hawaiian shirts. Passengers on the flight — who mostly seemed to be Southwest employees and die-hard fans — got luggage tags and flower leis before taking to the skies. And we got to head out onto the airfield to see the flight off. Read on! We have so many photos, you’ll feel like you were there with us.
It didn’t take me long to agree to work as Press for PAX East (if you’re not sure what that is, check the link ahead). After last year’s adventure in San Antonio for PAX South, I was eager to experience the last major PAX event that I hadn’t yet been to. Besides, I’d never visited Boston before.
American, Delta, United, Frontier, and Allegiant all operate flights out of my local airport, either directly or through a regional subcontract. While I prefer to fly Delta, they were significantly more expensive than American for an early April round trip to Boston. Neither Frontier nor Allegiant fly into Boston’s Logan International, which put them out of the running. American it was! Given that I expected to come back from Boston with two checked bags plus a carryon, a back-to-front (Economy to Boston, First Class home) flight plan almost paid for itself in bag fees. At least, as long as I didn’t mind flying Boston to Sioux Falls via Charlotte and Chicago.
Unlike Delta, which runs its FSD-MSP feeder flights on mainline A320 or B717 aircraft, American contracts with Air Wisconsin to feed their Chicago-O’Hare hub with CRJ-200 flights. These aircraft are all single class 2-2 configuration. As I would find out, no booking consideration is given to First Class on other legs. Anyone wanting one of the few prefered seats on the -200 is going to have to pay for it.
I had not flown on two domestic airlines back-to-back with so much the same, and I found there to be a pretty stark differences.
To San Juan, I took two Delta Boeing 737-900ERs with the newest interior (one was only a few weeks old). I flew from Seattle to Atlanta (shocking), then on to San Juan. On the way home, I took two American 737-800s. One had the Boeing Sky Interior cabin, but still shared entertainment screens. The second was an older 737-800, with no sky interior and also shared screens (but more on that later). I flew out of San Juan, through Miami, and then on to Seattle.
The cost of the tickets were exactly the same: $236 each way. I also earned Alaska Airlines miles for both flights, so I didn’t care about miles on either, nor did I have any status [update: I did not realize that Delta only gave me 50% Alaska miles vs American’s 100%. Still knowing this, it doesn’t change any of my choices or opinions since I am not much of a miles guy]. I was also in window seats and had similar seat-mate setups.
I went into these flights with no expectation of doing a story, but the fact that on similar flights, there was an obvious winner, I became motivated. And yes, you will have to wait until the end to see which airline won no cheating!