Review

Alaska Airlines First Class overview

Perhaps not the best use of Qantas Points but still a solid option for longer flights within the US

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Qantas partner Alaska Airlines is the fifth-largest airline in the US. It generally ranks towards the top of US airlines in terms of customer satisfaction and its loyalty program Mileage Plan is more often than not the winner in annual rankings.

Note that ‘First Class’ on domestic US flights is equivalent to Business Class elsewhere, including in Australia.

Alaska Airlines-Virgin America merger

The two airlines will become one under the Alaska name from 25 April 2018.

Virgin America’s Elevate loyalty program was merged into Alaska’s Mileage Plan program in January 2018.

Fleet & Routes

Alaska flies to more than 115 destinations within the continental US, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica.

They have a strong presence on the West Coast of the US, with Seattle as their main hub and secondary hubs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland and Anchorage. Virgin America’s inclusion will strengthen the airline’s presence in San Francisco and Los Angeles as well as add Dallas Love Field (not Dallas-Fort Worth) to the network.

Most aircraft are single-aisle Boeing 737s or Airbus A320s, with some smaller jets operated by subsidiaries Horizon Air and SkyWest (this review).

The Cabin: Seats & Seatmap

On smaller jets like the Embraer 175 that I flew on, First Class is arranged in a 1-2 configuration. However, on larger jets like a Boeing 737, you will find a more standard 2-2 configuration.

I found the seats and cabin to be new and comfortable.

Seat Choice

Avoid Row 4 as only a curtain separates the First and Economy Class cabins.

Food & Drink

I received warm nuts after takeoff.

You’ll get a meal on longer flights. The flight attendant on my flight went above and beyond to put together a vegetarian meal from the for-purchase snacks available in Economy.

A disappointment was that the coffee was served cold and the cabin crew knew it and did not rectify the situation.

Customer service

The friendly ground crew introduced themselves by name over the loudspeaker and the cabin crew allowed an Economy Class passenger to put her wedding dress in the First Class closet, so thumbs up for that.

A hot towel provided prior to the food service was a nice unexpected touch on a US airline.

It took five minutes for my tray to be cleared, which is neither here nor there.

Inflight entertainment

No seatback televisions or handheld tablets are provided. However, the wifi allows for the free use of messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

You can pay for more access but it may not be worth it—the wifi on my flight had very poor speeds of 0.06 Mbps download/0.18 Mbps upload.

Amenities

Due to the curvature of the small plane, it was hard to stand upright in the tight bathroom.

Updates to First Class product

Alaska plans to update its First Class offering in 2018-2019 as it absorbs Virgin America into one brand.

  • Pre-order meal or pick a fruit and cheese plate instead—currently available on transcontinental and Hawaii flights with plans to expand to all flights in early 2019
  • Half of fleet will get seats that are a little wider than current product but still no lie-flat seats on transcontinental flights
  • Inclusion of footrests and tablet holders from second half of 2018
  • Quilted throws on longer flights
  • Expansion of wifi coverage
  • New lounge in New York JFK (opened April 2018) and refurbished flagship lounge in Seattle (opening 2019)

How to redeem points for this flight

The main points currencies Australia-based travellers can use on Alaska flights are:

Here is a comparison table for three common routes, with the winner in bold:

RouteQantas PointsAsia MilesBritish Airways AviosAlaska Mileage PlanAAdvantage
Los Angeles - San Francisco18,00020,0009,00025,00025,000
San Francisco - Anchorage38,00030,00037,50025,00025,000
Los Angeles - New York53,00030,00037,50025,00025,000

You can search for award space and book seats on Alaska through any of the programs above except British Airways, who you have to call.

You can read our guide to when award calendars open.

Regardless of the program you book through, taxes should be $5.60 USD per segment of your trip.

It may also be worth checking to see if you can get a good cash price on an Alaska Airlines flight.

Lounge access

One differing feature of Alaska to other US airlines is that First Class passengers get access to Alaska lounges before their flight, whether travelling on a paid or award ticket. Note, however, that upgraded passengers do not get access.

Our other US domestic flight reviews

Summing up: why choose this flight?

Using your frequent flyer points for an Alaska Airlines First Class redemption makes the most sense when travelling:

  • across the US, e.g. Los Angeles/San Francisco to New York/Washington DC
  • on a route on which cash fares are expensive, e.g. to/from Alaska

For short hops like LA to San Francisco or Las Vegas, perhaps only use your British Airways Avios to maximise value.

If you are doing the five-to-six-hour trek across the country, it is worth checking if you can secure a seat on an airline with a lie-flat seat, including Delta, United, American Airlines and JetBlue—it makes the journey a whole lot more comfortable.

Having said that, with Alaska, you’ll get access to a lounge before your flight, generally good customer service and relatively modern planes.

Alaska Airlines First Class overview was last modified: April 12th, 2018 by Matt Moffitt

Comments Expand Comments

  1. Richard

    Another good hint for Alaskan, if you book a ticket in economy for cash and do not wish to fork out the 5-7 times for a first class seat then wait until exactly 24 hours before your flight to check in online. At this point Alaskan offer up their left over first class seats for around $100 to upgrade. No lounge access but a cheap way to go first class. I recently flew Anchorage to Lax for $210 plus $100 for the upgrade. The price to buy first class on the original ticket was $750.
    Richard.

  2. SK

    Nice review, Matt. Your advice to check the price of cash fares in F on AS is sound – they are often much cheaper than what we would pay over an equivalent distance in J in Australia, and you can earn QF points (but no SCs, of course, which is why I tend to go for AA instead).
    The ‘mainline’ AS product is a bit more comfortable than that offered on the ‘commuter’ E175s, I think. I used to like these compact aircraft, but now find them cramped, and am growing tired of their deployment on relatively long routes, especially by AA at LAX, where they arrive/depart from the rather inconvenient commuter terminal.
    And the most important question: did you get a PDB (pre-departure beverage) of your choice? I’m always amused by how much alcohol and how little food US carriers throw at you in domestic F – irresponsible service at its best!

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