Browsing Tag: Alaska Airlines

Flying with the

This Boeing 737-800 had the Hawaiian Lai on the tail, which didn't make too much sense flying to Alaska

My mother recently flew from Seattle, WA to Alaska and was excited to write about her travels, knowing her son runs an airline blog. I normally run a series “1st Person Perspective” where I will talk about my travels, but this will be the first “2nd Person Perspective.” My mother is a wonderful woman, who hates the travel process. We both thought it would be interesting to get the perspective of someone who hates the travel process, but loves to go new places. This is her story….

Even though I am an experienced, but reluctant traveler, I am not that knowledgeable about airlines. So this article is a simple personal account of my trip to Alaska and back.

It all began on August 23, my sister and I headed to SeaTac Airport which serves the Greater Seattle area and Puget Sound.

The new check-in system that Alaska Air has might look confusing and something out of the future, but it is efficient.

The new check-in system that Alaska Air has might look confusing and something out of the future, but it is efficient.

I have flown out of this airport many times, and since Alaska Airlines is headquartered there, they take up a large portion of the concourses.

Check in was very efficient. Lots of kiosks to get boarding passes and at least ten counters open to check and weigh baggage. The counters surround a central conveyor belt that seemed like a great idea to me.

After going through an uneventful security check we headed to our gate to board Flight 836 to Anchorage. It turned out our gate was in the North Satellite, which meant we had to take the underground train to get there. It took a bit longer, but we had given ourselves plenty of time.

While we were waiting to board, the woman at the counter announced that they were taking upgrades to First Class for $100; at first we were hesitant, but then decided we’d do it. It was a 3 1/2 hour flight and we were on vacation!

In First Class you see real food, that is actually good.

In First Class you see real food, that is actually good.

We were very excited, but trying not to show it, hoping the other first class passengers would think we belonged (who knows how many of them were using bonus miles or upgrades themselves).

I have flown first class before and it reminds me how coach used to be in the ’œolden’ days: larger leather seats and more legroom, attentive flight attendants, and real food on real china. We felt very privileged and a little decadent, especially when ordering a bloody Mary at 8:00 am and no little bottle! A real mixed drink! Plus you get to deplane early in First Class.

The flight left on time and our Boeing 737-800 cruised northward at 38,000 feet. We had a female pilot-or co-pilot-whoever sits on the right. We were offered a free DVD player and an exceptional breakfast (asparagus quiche, fresh fruit, and sausage).

It is Alaska's (the state, not the airline) 50th year of being a state.

It is Alaska's (the state, not the airline) 50th year of being a state.

Out the window, I could see Vancouver Island and the Canadian Rockies before it clouded over.

The flight time zoomed by and after a smooth landing, we were in Anchorage. The airport is very modern and filled with stuffed wildlife in glass cases. It is named after former Senator Ted Stevens who has since been indicted for corruption. But that’s a different blog story’¦

We only had to wait for our bags for about a minute-Alaska Airlines has a new policy that if you have to wait more than 25 minutes, they give you $25 dollars toward your next flight.

Fast forward through the wonders of Alaska’¦.

On the return flight from Anchorage to Seattle, my sister and I decided to ’œslum’ it and go coach. I did notice that Alaska attendants now call it the’ main’ cabin. We had aisle seats across from each other and no one was in either middle seat, so we were fairly comfortable in the narrower seats that were also leather.  No fancy meal, but we could have purchased an Asian Chicken Wrap or Anytime Chicken Basket for $6. There were complimentary drinks including generic cola and a bag of ’œGourmet’ Party Mix. Not exactly as luxurious as our flight out, but the plane did get us there with a smooth ride and almost on time. We again landed at the North Satellite concourse, so our luggage actually beat us to the claim area.

Overall, both flights were  uneventful-a definite plus for me.

Story Sponsor:
Compare & save on parking at SeaTac with

The test bag, at Alaska Airlines baggage check counter at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, ready to start its journey to Phoenix

The test bag, at Alaska Airlines baggage check counter at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, ready to start its journey to Phoenix

One of my least favorite parts of flying is waiting for my bag in baggage claim. First you wait to see which carousel your bags will come out on. Then you wait for them to change the carousel number. Then you get excited when the lights flash and the conveyor belt starts moving, but normally you are waiting a bit more until bags come out. Sometimes you are lucky and your bags come off the conveyor belt early, but other times, it can take upwards of an hour to get all your luggage (if they show up at all).

Alaska Airlines currently has a promotion that is changing the game. If you do not get your checked bags with-in 25 minutes of your flight reaching the gate, you will get a $25 discount code for a future flight on Alaska Airlines or Horizon Airlines or you can choose to get 2,500 Mileage Plan bonus miles.

I wanted to check-in on how the promo was going and talked to Greg Latimer, who is the  Managing Director of Brand and Product Marketing for Alaska Airlines. He explained that the airline checks about 20,000 bags per day and since the start of this promo on July 7th only a few hundred certificates have been claimed. He admitted that not that long ago, Alaska Airlines wouldn’t have been able to complete the task of getting all checked bags to customers in 25 minutes, but they have been working hard and are  proud of their accomplishment.

It took less than 15:18 for the bag to be ready for pick-up, but it took me that long to get the baggage claim.

It took less than 15:18 for the bag to be ready for pick-up in Phoenix, but it took me that long to get the baggage claim.

The promotion and stats looked great on paper, but I wanted to put this to the test. It was good timing. I was heading from Seattle, WA to Phoenix, AZ this weekend and flying on Alaska. It was only for a few days and normally would have just carried on my bag, but it was worth the $15  to check a bag and find out if Alaska could deliver on this guarantee.  I had no problems checking my bag at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. I decided to go with an orange bag (actually a friend’s bag who was traveling with me, but mine was a boring black one) to track its journey.

The flight went great (except there was no Skymall magazine in the seatback…so I couldn’t see the new gadgets) and landed almost on time. Once we pulled up to the gate at Phoenix International Airport, I started the timer. I was flying back in row 26, so it took me a while to get off the plane, but the terminal is small and I went quickly to make sure I got there before the 25 minute mark. By the time I got to baggage claim, there was the orange bag, already out, making the rounds. It was only 15:18 when I saw the bag. I am not going to lie, I was very impressed. So few times have I flown and had my bag waiting for me on the carousel.

This policy just makes sense. With airlines charging to check bags (Alaska Airlines charges $15 for 1st bag and $25 for second), it seems silly passengers should have to wait so long to get their bags. Instead passengers will bring carry-ons causing issues with space and slowing down the security process (took me 35minutes to get through security and I had no carry-ons, but 99% of everyone else did).  Ladimer told me they aren’t sure what Alaska is going to do after this promotion expires on December 31st. I know it might not be sustainable to offer $25 of 2,500 miles for the long term, but I really hope they can keep up the guarantee in some fashion. I am optimistic that other airlines might follow suit and make a better effort in the speed at which they have bags ready for pick-up. I personally know I am much more likely to pay for a checked bag if I know my bag will be there quick.

UPDATE 01/01/10: Alaska tells me they have extended this deal until at least July 31, 2010.

Vietnam Airlines Boeing 777 being towed at Frankfurt

Vietnam Airlines Boeing 777 being towed at Frankfurt

American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, US Airways, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and UPS have agreed to use up to 1.5million gallons of synthetic diesel made from plant waste per year. The fuel would be used to fuel their ground service equipment at Los Angeles International Airport.

Rentech Inc. will be supplying the alternative fuel starting in 2012, made mostly from urban yard waste and clippings.
Most people only think about aircraft causing much of the pollution in air travel, but there are thousands of support vehicles at each airport that also cause harmful emissions. Rentech is currently in talks with other airlines and airports to increase the fuel’s usage.

Image: Thomas Becker
Showing the Alaska RNP read outs. Image from

Showing the Alaska RNP read outs. Image from

Alaska Airlines is working on ways to save a few million gallons of fuel per year. The fuel savings will not only trickle down to a passenger’s pocketbook, but it would also cut down on environmental and noise pollutions.

Throughout the summer Alaska has been testing next-generation flight procedures at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) that have been dubbed “Greener Skies.”

The new procedure breaks away from the traditional “stair-step” method of descending into an airport. With current protocol, the control tower will assign altitudes airliners will cruise at. The pilot will descend to the new altitude, increase power to maintain the altitude, and wait for the next step. The new process takes advantage of Required Navigation Performance (RNP). With RNP the decent is a smooth, linear, and controlled approach without the need to level off. Alaska says the new system could save 2.1 million gallons of fuel and 22,000 metric tons of carbon emissions per year.

Elliott Pesut, Twitterer for Alaska Airlines, pointed out to me that Alaska is the only major U.S. air carrier with a completely RNP-equipped fleet and fully trained crews. I am sure Alaska won’t be the last. Southwest Airlines recently announced their entire fleet of Boeing 737-700’s have the new technology and are in process of training their flight crews. Alaska is working to gain FAA approval to start using it by next year.

It is great to see an airline taking the leadership role of bringing this technology to the forefront and motivating others to follow suit. I hope that all aircraft at SEA will use the technology and it will spread to all airports and aircraft in the US.

Alaska Airline MD83 at SeaTac

Alaska Airline MD83 at SeaTac

Alaska Airlines has gotten rid of all the blankets and pillows from all 114 planes in its fleet. The airline states it is in response to the recent Swine Flue outbreak and want to increase the sanitization efforts in its planes. They have also been using a virus killing cleaner inside the cabins to take care of any flu viruses left on their aircraft.

Although I have always been a little un-easy using a “shared” blanket and pillow, I wonder why they haven’t gone the route of some other airlines and allow passengers to purchase their own set of blanket and pillow they can keep?

Source: Business Journal Image: sfPhotocraft