I made up a binder to plan our trip and this was on the cover… it is how I roll!
The movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is one of my favorite classics. It never gets old watching how a simple trip falls apart into complete chaos. It might have been a bit odd for me to be excited taking a trip using those exact forms for transportation (in the same order, none-the-less), but I was optimistic that our trip would turn out much better. Brittany (my lovely wife) and I were planning to take a plane from Seattle (SEA) to New York (via EWR); a train from New York (NYP) to Jacksonville, FL (JAX); and then a nice little drive down the Florida coast to Vero Beach, FL.
Brittany had never been to New York City and we wanted to visit my dad in Vero Beach. You probably can tell that I love flying, but I was at a place in my life where the idea of flying back and forth across the country twice in a few 737s was not appealing, so I started to get creative.
The outside of an Amtrak car with Viewliner Roomettes – Photo: Amtrak
I realized that for about the same cost to fly from New York down to Florida, we could purchase a Viewliner Roomette on the Amtrak Silver Service. Of course the travel time would be a bit more… but the experience would be very different. Neither of us had traveled overnight on a train and I was stoked about the idea!
Although the train continued farther south, I wanted to round out the experience by de-training (that a thing?) in JAX and renting a car to drive the rest of the way. The drive is only about three hours to our final destination, but we decided to make it a two-day adventure. We wanted to smell the roses and also stay at a hotel right on the water. We had our quest locked in!
Buckle up… it is time to first start the PLANE portion of our journey!
A TWA, featuring the Boeing 707, ad seen in The Saturday Event Post in 1959 – Image: Jeremy’s Collection
I love looking back at old airline advertisements that promote a new type of aircraft that will soon become the flagship of the fleet. We are talking about the iconic birds of yesteryear; like the Lockheed Constellation, Boeing 707, Douglas DC-8, McDonnell Douglas DC-10, and Lockheed L1011. However, there was one aircraft that let the world know that your airline has arrived (literally and figuratively): the 747 Jumbo Jet.
Before I continue, let’s make sure we are on the same page about the definition of “flagship.” I really hate it when people just say “well, Merriam-Webber defines <insert word here> as…” because it is just a super lazy way to get your point across. Whatever, it is really easy to do it that way…
flag·ship | \ ˈflag-ˌship \
1: the ship that carries the commander of a fleet or subdivision of a fleet and flies the commander’s flag
2: the finest, largest, or most important one of a group of things (such as products, stores, etc.) —often used before another noun
In AvGeek terms, the flagship is often the coolest airplane that they have that will make passengers think “golly gee, that is a swell plane and I want to fly on it, I am going to take that airline” (I actually tried to make that sound sarcastic, but that is how I legit feel when I am looking for flights).
With so many airlines moving to smaller aircraft (B737, A320, E-Jet, and A220) and operating aging fleets (B767,B 757, A330ceo, etc), what aircraft do they see as their flagship today? I found some that were pretty obvious, and others that had me scratching my head. I am making my best guesses based on the information that airlines put out there to the public, so I might be wrong. With one or two, I am pretty sure that I am wrong. Let me break it down by airline, let you know what I found, and you tell me if you disagree.
My gate at FLL gave amazing views of my Alaska Airbus A321…. not!
“What the heck is a diagcon look of an Alaska Airlines A321 first class product?” Don’t worry, I will get to that.
I had no expectation that I was going to write this review. I recently flew down to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to hang out with Embraer and they were nice enough to put me in first class. When I was preparing for my flight home (I flew on Delta to FLL), I saw it was on an Alaska Airlines Airbus A321. Sweet. I knew that I would either be flying on one of Virgin America’s old birds with their first class product, or Alaska’s new product — win/win. I did my thing and looked up the registration number, found the delivery date of the aircraft, and determined that I was going to be trying out the new product. Heck yea.
The good news and bad news is I just had a really long day, got very little sleep previously, and had just flown across the country the day before. That is bad since I wasn’t really prepared to do this review, but good since what better time to test out a product when you aren’t feeling 100%?
Pretty cool display of the new Alaska Airlines first class seat that I viewed during my previous media trip with them
Previously, I had the chance to fly down to SFO to preview Alaska Airlines’ new first class product on their Airbus A321s. I was only able to sit down in a first class seats for a short amount of time, and obviously media flights like that don’t give you a real experience of how the product compares. Know what does? A six-hour flight from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Seattle (SEA), that’s what! And looky there, I just recently did flew that diagcon flight.
A classic Alaska Airlines Boeing 727-200 taken in 1989 – Photo: Aero Icarus | FlickrCC
The United States’ fifth-largest air carrier – Alaska Airlines – traces its roots deep into American history; in fact, the airline began in its namesake’s state nearly 27 years before Alaska achieved statehood. The formerly localized west coast regional air carrier boasts an impressive route structure, serving 116 destinations with over 1,200 daily departures. After the 2016 acquisition of San Francisco-based Virgin America, Alaska Airlines began a new phase of operations, utilizing its inheritance of 67 Airbus aircraft and dozens of new routes. When mainline service is combined with wholly-owned subsidiary Horizon Air and contracted carrier SkyWest Airlines, Alaska Airlines proudly boats the honor of operating the “Most West Coast” flights each day.
However, Alaska Airlines and its affiliates have carefully expanded their daily operations far beyond the western United States, serving eastern seaboard destinations from Boston to Ft. Lauderdale. In 2014, 25% of all Alaska Airlines daily departures traveled across North America; after the Virgin America acquisition a mere four years later, that figure has nearly doubled. Simultaneously, growth to areas outside of the continental U.S. remains relatively stable and, in some cases, diminished. After connecting Bellingham, Washington to various Hawaiian destinations for nearly a decade, Alaska Airlines announced cessation of all Bellingham nonstop flights except service to Seattle-Tacoma. Growth within the airline’s namesake state of Alaska remains stagnant; service to Mexico faces a similar outcome.
Horizon Q400s at Seattle
Alaska Airlines, alongside subsidiary Horizon Air and its partner SkyWest Airlines – through a capacity purchase agreement – has strategically eliminated under performing routes over the recent years. Instead, Alaska has elected to beef up its west coast hubs to maintain a stronghold among residents along the west coast. After the 2008 merger of Delta and Northwest, ferocious competition rose in former Alaska Airlines strongholds, specifically Seattle and Portland. Delta Air Lines maintains an expansive international network from Seattle, leading to recent growth and additions in domestic service and direct competition with Alaska Airlines. To combat, recent Alaska Airlines strategic decisions can be categorized into three distinct categories: Streamlined regional operations, acquisition of Virgin America, and an ever-expanding route network.