Sunday, March 1, 2015

Alaska vs. United: Comparisons and Contrasts

PHL-SEA was a full flight yesterday. United could learn from some of Alaska's operating procedures.

As we were waiting to board the plane, a gate agent approached, told us politely that it was a full flight, and that they'd happily check our bag. We mentioned our tight connection in SEA and she moved on with a smile. If your checked bag doesn't appear within 20 minutes of your plane's arrival at the gate, AS offers you 2500 miles or a $25 travel voucher. Delta has just started to copy them.

We recently did check a bag into BLI and Kathy was waiting with it outside when Brian drove the car up to Arrivals from the parking lot across the road.

Once aboard and seated in Row 8, we notice again that AS planes seem a little cleaner and newer than UA planes. We didn't snag exit row but the pitch (the distance between rows of seats) allowed us to cross our legs. Part of that was probably the thin seats - Recaro? - of which we're not particularly fans.

It was exciting to see a power/USB outlet for every seat, attached to the row in front of us.

Once service started, we took advantage of another AS policy to offer elite passengers a complimentary alcoholic drink and free use of a $10 rental video player.

We each bought a $7 Chicken Banh Mi Sandwich that arrived hot and tasty. We each bought a $7 glass of Washington State red wine. We have never had anything aboard less than a wine we'd happily serve at home. Last night we noted that the generous pours are coming out of real bottles, even in Economy.

In summary, our five-hour flight passed fairly quickly and pleasantly, and it arrived at the gate nearly 30 minutes early.

This enabled us to step up to a thankfully deserted Service Center to book ourselves on the earlier flight into BLI, as we did on our first trip. We ended up sitting in F for the 20-minute flight on a 737 that was scheduled to fly from Bellingham to Maui today and were home 35-40 minutes after landing.

We've found the crews to be friendly and consistently more upbeat than UA crews, with a lot of joking amongst themselves. Perhaps that's a result of more employees knowing each other on this relatively small airline.

Only time will tell if Alaska will introduce the same revenue requirements to their mileage programs as the big guys have, but we've certainly enjoyed the ride on our three recent bargain fares to San Diego and (twice) to Philadelphia. Another bargain fare is a quick upcoming trip to HNL this coming week, outbound in Economy and returning in F on a red-eye, both nonstop BLI-HNL-BLI.We'll see how that goes.

In summary, so far we really like AS, but that's not to take away from the many wonderful UA employees we've encountered over the past decade-plus as we accumulated over a million miles with them.


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