In a nutshell: Alaska Airlines 737-900 first class was a solid experience, one of the better domestic first flights I’ve enjoyed. From the warm service to the enjoyable meal and drinks, it is a fantastic way to enjoy the 6-hour haul from Boston to San Francisco.
At the very end of December I decided to jump on the standing Alaska status match challenge offer. It was a nice way to get some final mileage out of my soon-to-expire Delta Platinum Medallion status. I’d considered a match for a bit, but didn’t expect to fly Alaska all that much. Plus, it would be difficult to do enough flying “organically” to meet the challenge requirements. So at first a status match was a “no.”
But when Alaska offered their BOGO sale (which wasn’t just applicable to buy-one-get-one trips), I decided it was time. I’d need a mileage run or two, but at $107 (at the cheapest) per round-trip(!), it was totally worth it. The redeemable miles alone I’d earn were worth more than the fare. My destination of choice? Boston.
My outbound to Boston and this return flight back to San Francisco were both booked as one-way tickets as a mileage run to lock in Alaska MVP Gold 75K status for all of 2020. I used a soon-to-expire $100 discount voucher for this flight, spending just $20.80 out of pocket. Together with the outbound ticket, I was out ~$91 out of pocket. This was for Main Cabin versus an Alaska Saver fare. Saver was available for just $107 round-trip, but I wanted to leave the possibility for an upgrade on these flights. For ~$40 more total, it seemed worth it in this case.
Alaska Airlines came through, and I was upgraded 4 days ahead for the San Francisco to Boston segment and 1 day ahead for the Boston to San Francisco segment. The ticket earned me 2,704 elite miles and 6,084 redeemable miles, for a total of 5,708 elite miles and 12,168 redeemable miles for my entire day of flying. I value 12,000 Alaska miles at $240. Not a bad haul for $91 out of pocket, total!
Airport Experience at Boston
I arrived into Boston on an Alaska 737-800 aircraft. It was only after deplaning that I noticed it was the one with their commemorative livery honoring U.S. service members! Alaska has a good number of one-off liveries, including their Disney-themed aircraft.
When I booked the tickets originally, I assumed Alaska operates the flights as an immediate turn, which was why I was comfortable booking the two one-ways. However, they do not, although it might seem like they do based on the scheduled departure times. The outbound is operated by a 737-800 while the return is operated by a 737-900. Luckily, my arrival was on-time into Boston.
This was my very first time at Logan airport. I’d be back flying another mileage run to meet my Alaska MVP Gold 75K challenge. I still haven’t seen any bit of Massachusetts besides the airport.
During the layover I just hung out in the terminal. I couldn’t find a way to transfer to one of the terminals that has a Priority Pass lounge. Why must airports be such a pain like this?! Or maybe I’m too inept to find the way between Terminal B and other terminals that avoids exiting and re-entering security?
Anyway, I wouldn’t have had a whole lot of time as it was. I just grabbed a bite to eat at the food court and walked around to stretch my legs. Before long, it was time to board my Alaska Airlines 737-900 first class flight back to San Francisco.
Boarding and Departure
My return flight started boarding right on time, just like the outbound had. As I was flying first class, I was in the first boarding group after pre-boarding. If I had not been upgraded, I would have been in boarding group A, which is reserved for Mileage Plan Million Miler, MVP Gold 75K, and MVP Gold members. Alaska has five “standard” boarding groups in total, A through E.
Alaska Airlines 737-900 first class has a total of 4 rows of seats in the standard 2-2 configuration. I was assigned seat 3A, a window seat on the left side of the aircraft.
Once I got settled, I couldn’t help but notice the chatter in the rest of the cabin. It seemed like everyone else in first class knew each other, yet hadn’t planned to fly together. They’d been brought together serendipitously. Given that Alaska only one daily flight to and from Boston, it wouldn’t surprise me if their loyal program members flying this route bump into each other more often.
We pushed back ahead of schedule. During announcements the crew pointedly mentioned that “headphones are required” when using devices. As someone who finds it obnoxious when people watch videos on their phone without them (which might be literally all of us except the oblivious offenders?), I’ve started a collection of headphones to hand out for free.
Alaska Airlines 737-900 First Class Seat
Alaska Airlines has a very inviting first class product, in my opinion. I’ve now flown Delta domestic first class on a few different aircraft, as well as United first class on their A320 and a SkyWest E175, and Amerian A319 first class on just one occasion. Alaska’s is on the nicer end of recliner first, in my opinion. The seats are nicely padded and very comfortable.
Alaska provides a small bottle of water to first class passengers, as is typical with other U.S carriers. Alaska does not offer pre-departure beverages. Starbucks latte not included.
There is no seat-back IFE on Alaska Airlines aircraft, even in first class. This is one of the reasons Delta is my preferred carrier. However, Alasks does provide complimentary tablets in first class. More on that later.
The legroom in Alaska Airlines 737-900 first class is good. Their seats offer over 40 inches of pitch, which is better than American and Delta, on average. Actually, I think this is better than all of American’s aircraft. A mere 36 inches in first class is barely more than Alaska Airlines’ Premium class.
Alaska does like to advertise that their Mileage Plan program is better than the competition. I tend to agree. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is essentially the only reasonable program among U.S. airlines that still awards redeemable miles based on miles flown. Typically, I believe that theirs is the most rewarding frequent flyer program. I’d contest that 30% more is an underestimate compared to the U.S. “Big 3” airlines.
Overall, I was very happy with Alaska Airlines first class on their 737s. The seats are comfortable, and even with my backpack under the seat in front of me, there is more than enough legroom. The lack of seat-back IFE is definitely a negative, but Alaska offers tablets in lieu of screens.
I glanced over the first class menu before we’d even pushed back. Alaska Airlines had me sold on the chicken and accompaniments. Luckily for me, I managed to snag the very last plate. The last row was out of luck by the time the flight attendant took their orders. I can’t even remember what the second option was on our flight.
You can actually pre-order your meal on Alaska Airlines, a feature I was unaware of. You have the ability to do this between 20 hours and 3 weeks prior to your flight through the app or online.
One thing that surprised me is that Alaska intended to offer the meal service by course. This is more along the lines of international business class rather than any domestic first class I’ve experienced until now. The crew were professional and apologetic about the whole experience.
Things started off with warm nuts and a beverage. Alaska typically offers a red wine and white wine and premium beer options from the Pacific Northwest on all their flights.
However, they were quickly seated due to turbulence. About half an hour later, we were offered our full dinner on a single tray due to expedite things. The chicken with fennel was very good. I opt for chicken as the “safe” alternative if nothing else sounds good. But in this case, it was among the best airplane chicken I’ve had.
The salad and soup were likewise both good. I don’t know what the fascination with kale is all about, but the accompaniment included kale. I still have “airplane food PTSD” to my United 757-200 transcontinental business class flight when I was offered chicken with kale pesto. Let’s just say kale should never be an ingredient in pesto.
Dinner was followed by peppermint cocoa Salt and Straw ice cream, which was excellent. I think Alaska takes the cake when it comes to domestic first class catering. Dinner was very good, overall.
IFE and WiFi
Unlike my 737-800 flight from SFO, this flight had been loaded with in-flight entertainment tablets. It was a bummer to not have any IFE for the first leg, but I had fortunately loaded a couple Netflix movies and shows onto my phone. Plus, the in-flight bring-you-own-device entertainment was working just fine. This flight had both tablets and working BYOD.
In first class, in-flight entertainment tablets are complimentary. They are also complimentary for MVP Gold 75K members who are seated in the other cabins. The tablet’s larger screen is nice, but the movie selection they contain is quite limited. There are at most a couple dozen options. However, the BYOD library is extensive. Alaska might just have the largest selection of films of any domestic carrier.
I got slightly annoyed that the tablet ran out of battery after about 3 hours of usage. Until I realized that a charger had been included when the flight attendant handed it to me. Duh!
The WiFi was touch-and-go. I had constant connectivity problems. It would drop from my PC randomly, typically within 5 minutes from whenever I connected. This made everything frustrating. I typically only want the basics: email, WordPress, web searches, social media. After fighting with it for about 45 minutes, I gave up and just enjoyed the IFE.
The Verdict: Alaska Airlines 737-900 First Class
I settled in to watch a couple films before landing uneventfully back in San Francisco. It’d been a long day, but an enjoyable one. Flying Alaska Airlines first class for the first time was more than worth the slight premium over Saver. The upgrade wasn’t guaranteed, but I knew that as an MVP Gold 75K elite, it’d be likely.
From the warm service, to the above-average domestic catering, to the comfortable seat, I really enjoyed Alaska Airlines 737-900 first class. The seat pitch is surprisingly good in an era when carriers seem to be stuffing more and more seats onto aircraft. I’d happily fly it again Unfortunately, my subsequent mileage run was booked as a Saver fare. More on that experience at a later time.