Alaska Airlines Premium Economy Introduction
I’m not a huge fan of flying economy, but when British Airways offers roundtrip tickets to Hawaii from the west coast for only 25,000 Avios roundtrip, I’m willing to make a compromise. Furthermore, American Express Membership Rewards just offered a 25% transfer bonus on British Airways Executive Club transfers, meaning roundtrip tickets to Hawaii from the west coast could be had for 20,000 Membership Reward Points per ticket, roundtrip. Currently American Express is offering 40,000 Membership Reward points on their Business Gold Rewards Card after spending $5,000 in the first three months, which equates to two roundtrip tickets to Hawaii from the west coast with minimal taxes and fees. Alaska Airlines Premium Economy can be purchased for a small fee (route dependent – $75USD for this flight) on reward tickets which allows priority boarding, complimentary cocktails, and extra legroom, which can be well worth the value for a longer flight.
We arrived at the airport 2 hours prior to departure at Bellingham International, which proved to be excessive. We ended up staying in the gate area for approximately 90 minutes with not much to do. Bellingham doesn’t offer any sort of lounge access, though they do have a couple of places to get food. I was surprised at how busy the airport was, though there were a few flights departing around the same time to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Hawaii.
Boarding began right on time at 8:30am at the A gate, starting with families travelling with young children (there were a lot) and first class passengers. Shortly after that premium economy passengers were invited to board.
Alaska Airlines Premium Economy Flight Details
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Alaska Airlines 813
Bellingham (BLI) – Kahului (OGG)
Sunday, November 12, 2017
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Seat: 8F (Premium Economy)
Bellingham airport is fun for any avgeek, since you get to walk out to every flight (no jet bridges) and get some great views of your plane prior to departure.
We weren’t greeted by anyone at the door, which felt strange, but easily found our way to row 8 where we were seated. Premium economy has the same seats as the rest of the main cabin, but with a few extra inches of legroom. According to SeatGuru, each premium economy seat has 35 inches of pitch and 17 inches of width, compared to only 31 inches in regular economy. While I wouldn’t pay to upgrade on a short flight, 4 extra inches of legroom on a 6-hour flight made a big difference.
I was seated in 8F, a window seat in the middle of premium economy. I had selected the aisle and window seat strategically hoping nobody else would pay to upgrade to a premium middle seat, but during check-in someone else in our group received a complimentary upgrade for operational reasons, which was better than sitting next to a stranger for 6 hours.
We boarded quite quickly for a full flight and pushed back just a few minutes later than scheduled (something to do with a baby seat not fitting properly). There were no safety videos, as this 737 had no in-flight entertainment options, but rather ‘bring your own device’ streaming which is becoming the norm for a lot of carriers.
Legroom was very decent, and well worth the upgrade price in my opinion. While there were no seat back entertainment screens, each seat did have personal power.
I generally love the plane spotting at airports, but Bellingham was a bit… disappointing. I only saw an old Allegiant bird en-route to Las Vegas.
The taxi was super quick (as to be expected at a small airport) and the climb out of Bellingham was very smooth. The seatbelt sign stayed on until we reached cruising altitude, which seemed to take about 30 minutes.
I had read mixed reports of the food offerings in Alaska Airlines premium economy, with some saying snack boxes were included. I suspected on a 6 hour flight we would be given more than peanuts, but what was offered wasn’t much better…
The ‘Lite Bites’ snack box consisted of some almonds, a fig cookie and some gummy bears. They were all tasty, but I didn’t find this above and beyond what would normally be offered on an economy flight…
Alaska Airlines premium economy seating does include complimentary alcohol, and the crew offered drink service three times on this 6 hour flight. There was also a variety of snack boxes and one hot breakfast item available for purchase.
I opted for a Mediterranean Tapas snack box, which included olives, hummus, crackers, dried apricots, almonds and a piece of chocolate. While not the best snack I’ve ever had, I thought the value was decent. I enjoyed the tapas with a complimentary mini-bottle of sparkling wine.
I have to admit I was really underwhelmed with the crew on this flight. Normally Alaska Airlines has fantastic cabin attendants, but this flight was a dud. I tried on multiple occasions to get a smile or start a conversation, but just couldn’t engage. Towards the end of the flight they were downright rude, telling a disabled first class passenger she needed to return to her seat (she was visiting her granddaughter in premium economy).
Also, the bathrooms were filthy the entire flight. Admittedly I don’t fly in economy very often, but really? There were two empty rolls of toilet paper on the counter right after departure…
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At least the views were good, and the cabin crew didn’t demand the window shades be closed for the entire flight…
We started our descent into Maui about 15 minutes ahead of schedule, but unfortunately the Hawaii agriculture cards were not loaded at Bellingham, so we were informed to stay seated after landing and someone would come on and distribute the declaration papers.
We touched down 15 minutes ahead of schedule and made our short taxi to the gate, where the ‘Big 3’ US carriers were parked.
Thankfully it didn’t take too long for the paperwork to be distributed, and within a few minutes we were in the terminal. On the positive side, the delay in filling out the paperwork meant our bags were already out when we got to the baggage claim!
Alaska Airlines Premium Economy Bottom Line
To be honest, I have mixed feeling about Alaska Airlines premium economy. On one hand, I have no regrets paying for the extra legroom, especially considering the flying time to Hawaii, but on the other hand, I didn’t find anything else especially premium about the product. Why not just call it extra legroom seating, since that’s basically all you’re getting (in addition to some free drinks I guess).
While I wouldn’t consider paying for this product on a short flight, the four extra inches made a big difference on the 6 hour hop across the pacific, and the few cocktails didn’t hurt either. I think a different crew would have left a better impression, and I’m looking forward to the return flight to see how it compares!
Have you flown Alaska Airlines Premium Economy? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below!