What a beautiful morning to fly. United Express (with white nose - N708SK) CRJ-700 with a United Boeing 757 and moon in the background at SEA.
Back to Seattle Tacoma International Airport probably the last time before they install body scanners. Waiting for my United Express flight down to LAX for a special event that United holds for all their VIP passengers to connect and get feedback. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (what’s Twitter?) to see all the action.
I am excited to check out one of these events and also for the flight down to LAX. This will be my first flight on a Canadair Regional Jet 700. Being based in Seattle, there just aren’t that many regional jets that fly out of here and most of my connections with-in the US have been on larger aircraft.
I enjoyed flying on the ERJ-145 with its 2:1 layout and interested to check out this CRJ-700 with mostly 2:2 layout. The United Express flight is being flown by Skywest and according to SeatGuru.com, this plane should have First Class and United Economy Plus seats. I ended up with seat 6D which should be economy plus and I didn’t have to pay a dime more to get it. Should be a good flight.
Seattle's Airport will be getting body scanners soon.
Here they come folks! Body scanners are on their way to my home town here in Seattle. I like to think of Seattle as a pretty progressive town and I was hoping that they wouldn’t make their way to my hometown airport. But as the Seattle Times is reporting, they will start to be used in September at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
The TSA hopes to install 450 of the $130,000 to $170,000 machines this year and 500 more the next. Someone is definitely getting rich off all this added security.
Yesterday, our local NPR station KUOW was talking about this subject on The Conversation with Ross Renyolds and I got to put in my two cents on the air. You can listen to the whole discussion here (I come in at about 12:50), which includes an interview with Dwayne Baird, a spokesperson for the TSA.
Remember, you have the option to opt-out of the body scanners and get a full pat down if you choose. I won’t re-hash my love (that is sarcastic) for these machines.
I am ready to rock and roll out side of Alaska Airlines Board Room at SEA.
In Part 1 I looked at airline lounges as a whole and what they can provide passengers. Then in Part 2 I explored what it is like to be a passenger at Alaska Airline’s Board Room. Today we will see what it takes to provide that high level of service to passengers in an airline’s lounge. What better way to do this then roll up my sleeves, put on a suit and work as a concierge at Alaska’s Board Room at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
It starts with an early arrival. Luckily they let me sleep in and I didn’t have to be at SEA until 6:30am. The Alaska Airlines Board Room opens at 5:00am, meaning employees will start arriving at 4:30am… yikes!
There aren’t too many jobs where you have to take off your shoes and go through a TSA scanner, but many airline and airport employees get the privilege of doing this daily. By the time I arrived, the security line was already long, but since I was being escorted by an Alaska employee, we got to go to the front of the line… booya, I need to do that more often! Then it is just a short walk to Alaska Airline’s boardroom which is located between the C and D concourses.
Mmmmm...automatic pancake maker. I want one.
I was assigned to follow concierge veteran Gina who was to show me the ropes. I was excited to see what it takes to do her job and learn a bit more about Alaska’s Board Room. In the passenger areas, the Board Room is pretty quiet that early in the morning, but behind the scenes things are very much in motion. Around 7-8am the Board Room sees a huge rush and when I arrived it was all about getting things ready for the rush, while taking care of the customers that were already there. There was no relaxing; wine tasting or good food for me, like in my previous visit, because this time it was all about business.
A big part of the job involves connecting with customers. Many times the concierge will know the names and stories of regular customers. This morning there was a regular customer of Gina’s in the lounge of the Board Room with his family. Even though Gina had never met his family before (it is normally just him flying), she knew about his sons and wife from stories the passenger has told her, which was quite impressive. The family was supposed to be leaving on a flight to San Francisco, but due to fog there, it was delayed. Now, it was our job to help make their delay as easy to deal with as possible.
It was early, but there were a lot of requests for bloody marys!
The first thing to help out was getting the pancake maker up and running. This is probably one of the coolest things I have seen in an airline lounge. Press a button and the machine makes a nice, hot double stack for you. The only bad thing was I was working, so no pancakes for me, however the passengers (especially the kids) love it.
The concierge job is multi-faceted and to be successful, you have to be able to multi-task. These are just some of the duties they must perform on a daily basis: passenger relations, greeter, food prep, bartender, cleaner, dishwasher, ticket agent, hospitality, cashier, stocker, sales person, and of course pancake machine setter-upper. One of the nice things for the employees is they are constantly rotating positions. A person might do a few hours down at the front desk checking people in, selling memberships and assisting with flight/seat changes, then they will do a few hours in the upstairs bar serving drinks and preparing for the next round of food service. This helps employees from getting bored and knowing all aspects of the board room. One of their biggest duties involves being a problem solver. Whether a passenger needs a package shipped or a hot drink, a concierge are going to help get it done.
The front desk is where you get to welcome new passengers and wish others a good flight.
The job is not easy, but sure is a lot of fun. Everyone I talked to there (on and off record) absolutely loves their jobs. They get to work with people, see airplanes out the windows (not sure if that part is a benefit to most of them) and get awesome job perks, like free flights. I have talked to a lot of flight attendants who say they have the best job in the world, but I wonder if airline lounge workers might have a leg up. Unlike flight attendants, they aren’t stuck in an airplane with a customer. If one gets too rowdy, they are able to call security or maybe take a walk to calm down. However, it is rare for passengers to misbehave in the Board Room.
Alaska sees about 40,000 passengers per month go through their SEA Board Room… that is a lot of people, but the employees there are always up for the challenge. If you have the extra funds, the cost of admission to Alaska Airlines or other airline lounges become very worth it. Even if you don’t have the funds, spoil yourself sometime and splurge $40 for a day pass next time your flight is delayed, I am guessing it will be worth it!
A Day In The Life Of…A Board Room Concierge
PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | ALL | PHOTOS
A special thanks to Gina and all the Alaska Airlines Board Room Staff for showing me your world and letting me slow you down a bit :).
The upstairs of Alaska Airlines Board Room in Seattle.
For some, hanging out in an airline lounge is an everyday activity. For others it is a rare treat, but for most it is an unknown adventure. Honestly, I haven’t had the experience hanging out in an airline’s lounge and wondered what it would be like. Fortunately, Alaska Airlines was more than happy to let me hang out for a few hours in their Board Room at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to see what it is like to be there as a passenger.
Luckily for me, the day I visited was a bit more special than regular days. Ponti Seafood Grill was handing out free samples and $20 gift certificates while Sleight of Hand Cellars was pouring a red and a white wine for Board Room members. Alaska has started having these special days about once per month, when they highlight local cuisine and wines. Thank goodness I was being a passenger this day and could partake in the great food and drink.
View out one side of the Alaska Board Room. Lots of Boeing 737's waiting to leave.
The Alaska Airlines Board Room has a feeling of elegance, yet at the same time is comfortable. You can enter wearing a suit, shorts or jeans and still feel at home. It seems cool enough that maybe someone like Billie Zane would hang out there (he actually was just leaving as I was showing up). From the moment you enter the large double doors, you are greeted with many smiles and there is always someone there to help you.
It really does give you the experience of flying first class. Everything is a bit fancier, you have more room and a lot of people there to help and answer any questions you might have. The Alaska Airlines Board Room in SEA is divided into two main areas. The bottom floor is more for the business traveler or people looking for a quieter area. Along the window there are plenty of work stations to plug into and get some work done using the complimentary Wi-Fi (which all of SEA has now as well).
Work stations down stairs at Alaska's Board Room
The upstairs is where you will find families traveling together or folks looking for a little more entertainment. There are two large TV’s that become quite popular during sporting events. You also have some pretty awesome views of Alaska Airlines Boeing 737’s out the windows and you can see planes taking off in the distance.
The board room has a bar area where you can get adult drinks. Most are free, but if you want top shelf, it might cost you a few dollars. There are also two self-service locations where you can get soda, coffee and snacks. Throughout the day there are different food options ranging from pastries to cheese to boiled eggs. In the morning folks can try out one of the most amazing food machines I have seen: an automatic pancake maker. All you need to do is push a button and a double stack comes on out. They say it is popular with the kids, but heck, I found it super entertaining.
A fancy Dale Chihuly installation at Alaska's Board Room.
After spending some time in Alaska’s Board Room, it felt…well…a little lame being in the main terminal. Not to say that SEA is a bad airport to hang out in, but once you visit an airport lounge, it is hard to go back. So how do you visit the Board Room as a passenger? Miles and money!
If you aren’t a MVP or Gold Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Member, it will cost you $450 for the year. If you are MVP, it goes down to $375 and $295 for Gold. If you want to visit only for a day (maybe your flight is delayed or you want to come for wine/food day) then it only costs $40 for a day pass. Since there are many concierges to assist you (and free alcohol), $40 would be a deal if you need to get re-booked on a flight and will be hanging out for a few hours. As a member you have access not only to Alaska’s Board Rooms, but also partner airline lounges located all around the country.
Besides all the goodies, you are going to find first class service. The people that work in the board room are well trained in many areas to make sure they can help any passenger’s request (more on their duties tomorrow).
A Day In The Life Of…A Board Room Concierge
PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | ALL | PHOTOS