In a nutshell: Alaska Airlines 737-900 Premium Class is one of the better extra-legroom economy products offered by U.S. carriers. The warm service, free beverages, and three extra inches of space could be worth the premium for a cross-country haul. I received the seating as an unexpected upgrade, along with all the benefits of my Alaska MVP Gold 75K status, such as an entertainment tablet. Best part: having no seat mates for the 6-hour trek!
We all know that airlines aren’t supposed to upgrade basic economy passengers. But I guess it can happen. I was flying a mileage run trek to Boston and back to lock in Alaska MVP Gold 75K status for the remainder of 2020, perfectly content to sit at the back of the plane in the seat I’d selected. The flight load was light, so I knew I wouldn’t have any seatmates. The ticket was a Saver fare, which does not allow for upgrades. I’d only booked a Main Cabin ticket for my first round-trip (which did get me upgraded into Alaska 737 first class).
However, a proactive flight attendant welcomed me aboard as an MVP Gold 75K member and invited me to move up to an empty row 6 or row 8. I couldn’t say no. A little extra legroom for the six hours from Boston to San Francisco, still with no one next to me? I’ll happily accept.
I booked the round-trip Saver fare for $107 as a same day turn from San Francisco to Boston. Saver is Alaska’s version of basic economy. On all flights except this one, Alaska’s flight attendants held to the policy of no upgrades. I had no expectations that they would ever depart from this. But I’m happy one of the FAs decided to “go rogue” as it were, as it allowed me to experience Alaska 737-900 Premium Class for the first time.
The trip earned me just as many miles as the other flights I took to Boston. Alaska Saver fares award 100% miles flown as award miles, plus I enjoyed a 125% boost as a recently-matched MVP Gold 75K. The 12,168 award miles earned from this trip are enough for a short-haul round-trip using Alaska’s distance-based domestic award chart. I easily value the miles at $150, if not more like $250 based on the value I typically get out of mine. I generally use Alaska miles for other, more premium uses. In summary, I walked away with well over $200 in value for my $107 ticket.
Arrival In Boston
My flight to Boston was uneventful. Alaska operated a Boeing 737-800 on this segment, which turned around and headed back to San Diego. I’m fairly sure my 737-900 had arrived from Seattle and would then finish its day with the flight to San Francisco. Since the ground time in Boston was literally ~90 minutes, all I had time for was a late lunch and a bit of work.
I’d originally booked seat 31D, as Alaska Saver fares do allow you to select seats. They are just all in the back. However, many people were rearranged due to the light load factor, and I found I’d been moved to 27D. The gate agent called the names of everyone who he’d moved and handed out new paper boarding passes. He’d also managed to rearrange the entire plane such that everyone had a row of three seats to themselves. If you’re looking for a great flight experience, consider flying Alaska instead of Delta or United on this route.
Boarding and Departure
At the tail end of boarding a flight attendant approached me, letting me know that sets of 3 seats in row 6 and row 8 were wide open. I explained that I’d booked a Saver fare. He responded with: “yeah, but you’re 75K. Move on up.” Alright. I won’t protest. Seats 8ABC it is, then, for me.
I want to make it clear that this definitely isn’t Alaska policy. This was the first and only time I was invited to move up on a Saver fare. I doubt he would have made the offer if the load factor wasn’t as light, as it could have impacted other customers seated in those rows. In this case, they were completely open, and I saw no harm in accepting his offer.
Given the light load factor, we pushed back ahead of schedule. It’s always nice to be underway early, especially when you have a 6-hour cross-country flight ahead of you.
Out of the few runs I made to Boston, this was the one that seemed to make it out earliest. There was still some light in the sky as we departed.
I’ve not set foot anywhere in Boston (or Massachusetts for that matter) outside the airport, but I am impressed by the proximity of Boston Logan to the city itself. We were treated to some great views as we departed. If only my phone camera could do better in the low light conditions.
Alaska Airlines 737-900 Premium Class Seat
Alaska Airlines 737-900 Premium Class offers the same economy seats as the rest of the cabin, albeit with an extra 3 inches of legroom. Standard pitch on the 737-900 is 31 inches, which is a typical industry standard. Premium class offers you a roomy 35 inches. What amazes me is that there are other carriers whose first class offers little more than this.
With no one next to me, I could store my bag under the middle seat, giving me plenty of room to stretch out. I pitied the poor folks up front in first. Having three economy seats is better than a single recliner with someone next to you.
Alaska’s economy seats offer at-seat power, including both a universal power outlet and a USB plug. I did notice that the aircraft hadn’t been fully cleaned, as there was trash left in the netting from a previous passenger.
All the pamphlets and magazine are in the pocket. I love that Alaska advertises that you earn 30% more miles with them. I find that to be a low estimate, if anything, based on the average accrual when compared to United, American or Delta, especially for elites. For a Delta Platinum Medallion to earn 12,168 miles on a cross-country trek, the ticket would need to cost in excess of $1,300. Crazy.
There is no seat-back in-flight entertainment system on Alaska’s 737s. Alaska does not offer this across any of their fleet. Aside from this fact, I have few complaints about their economy seating. The economy seats are a bit narrow, but this wasn’t an issue on this flight given the light load factor. The load factor is actually worrisome, as I’m afraid Alaska will discontinue the route entirely.
Alaska kept the mood lighting that Virgin America pioneered in their cabins. However, they moved to a cool blue from Virgin’s iconic purple and pink hues. The funny part? I don’t believe blue was one of the shades Virgin ever used.
In-Flight Entertainment and WiFi
Although there is no seat-back system, Alaska does offer an extensive selection of movies through their bring-your-own-device entertainment selection. There are plenty of films and shows to pick from.
If you’re short a device, you can also rent a tablet for $10. The price is fixed, no matter the flight length, and the tablets are collected 30-45 minutes before landing. I asked for one, as they are complimentary for MVP Gold 75K members. The screen is nicer than my phone for sure, and it the viewing angle better than my laptop. However, the selection on the tablet is very limited compared to what is available to your own device.
Alaska hands out headphones with every tablet, included in the rental price (but you can keep these). Headphones are also available for purchase for $3 if you’re without any. If you have an Alaska Airlines Visa card, remember that you receive 50% off in-flight purchases, including food, drinks, headphones and tablet rental.
As I’d bought a WiFi subscription for January, I did connect to WiFi for a while. However, it really struggled on this flight. The connection to my laptop would cut out frequently for several seconds or more. I had the same problem with the phone, albeit not as bad. The PC seemed to be much worse. Overall, I’m not too keen on Alaska Airlines’ WiFi. The speed is usually okay, but I’ve had connection problems on at least half of the flights I’ve taken.
Food and Beverage
Alaska Airlines 737-900 Premium Class offers a menu that is essentially the same as the economy class menu; however, prices have been removed from the alcoholic beverages, as these are complimentary. I’m quite glad Alaska offers Prosecco on domestic flights.
I’d eaten a light meal when I’d arrived in Boston, but I decided that I’d like to have a bit more. And it’d already been over two hours since then. I decided to try the “Beets So Fly” salad which was being offered at the time. Although I’m typically not keen on beets, I thought it was very good.
I’m split when it comes to in-flight meals. In general, I find that I much prefer the quality of the food for purchase. There have been a few bad experiences, but most of the time the salad or wrap I order is tasty and fresh. But this is the upside to flights being stocked with a limited amount of food versus food for everyone on a long-haul service. The downside if paying $8 to $10 for it. With the Alaska card, though, the prices really are reasonable.
The Verdict: Alaska Airlines 737-900 Premium Class
I enjoyed my six-hour trek from Boston to San Francisco in Alaska Airlines 737-900 Premium Class. It was an unexpected pleasure to be treated to a little more legroom and free drinks on my final mileage run segment. The 35-inch pitch is roomy, and it is especially nice if you do not have anyone next to you. The service was friendly, and Alaska generally offers some good food-for-purchase options.
Premium Class upgrade options are typically offered by Alaska Airlines at check-in. These can be as low as $15, although for a flight as long as this one, Alaska will charge more like $100 one-way. For some this is entirely worth it, for others this may be a splurge. Personally, I would not have paid for it, but I was more than happy to take the flight attendant up on his offer in this case.