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  • Writer's pictureRoy Thomas

Alaska Airlines, Take me home.

Nearly every journey that we take begins and ends with Alaska Airlines. My first flight on Alaska Air was in 1969 from Sitka, Alaska to Seattle, Washington to meet my grandparents, I was 6 months old. I have no memory of that trip, but it wasn't long before I learned to appreciate flying Alaska Airlines and the rocket like take offs of the 727 aircraft that they flew in the 70's. In the 80's Alaska Air transitioned to a fleet of 737s and today they have one of the youngest fleets in the industry. With the acquisition of Virgin America the previously all Boeing Airline now has a number of Airbus 319, 320, and 321 aircraft in the fleet.

Aalska Airlines 737s lined up at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska

If you include Alaska's regional airline, Horizon Air the fleet also includes Embraer 175s and Bombedier Q400 aricraft.

For nearly twenty years our family has called Kodiak, Alaska home. In order to leave the Island we have three choices, Alaska Airlines, Ravn Airlines, or the Alaska Marine Highway our state ferry system. Given that a trip to Anchorage by ferry takes about 12 hours followed by an additional 5 to 6 hour drive, we generally opt for flying. Alaska Air and Ravn Air used to be closer partners around the state but as Ravn has grown and expanded in some markets it has started competing directly with Alaska Air. As a result the partnership has been reduced to code sharing and certain mileage plan connections. A search for flights with either airline will not produce flight options on the other airline with one exception. A search for a mileage reward ticket on the Alaska Air website will provide you with Ravn Air flight choices. This unique arrangement is something specific to Alaska and our remote communities that are served by Both Alaska Air and Ravn.

Alaska Airline Mileage Plan is consistently rated one of the best in the industry. Recent changes to the plan have allowed us to redeem one way award travel to Anchorage for just 5000 miles. Throughout their nationwide system the new distance based reward fares have enhanced the value of the program. Given our dependence upon air travel and Alaska Air to leave the state nearly every Alaskan family carries the Alaska Airlines Visa Card earning miles for day to day shopping and for paying our relentless utility bills. One other perk that Alaska Air provides just for Alaskans is the Club 49 Program. Sorry outsiders its a special club just for those of us living in Alaska. Two free checked bags in and out of the state, three checked bags on flights within the state and special last minute shopping discounts.

An Alaska Air 737-400 arrives in Kodiak. The 400s have been recently retired from the Alaska Air fleet

Unless you are flying first class there is no longer any significant difference in the comforts of economy travel among US carriers. The 737-400s which were recently retired from Alaska air included the last of the previous generation of aircraft seats. The newer seats on Alaska Air feel narrower and seem to offer less cushion that previous offerings. The added power ports is a positive addition to the amenities available. With the exception of the planes added by the Virgin American deal seating does not include seat back entertainment. On most flights you can rent a "Digi Player" which is essentially a tablet with entertainment options. On-board many routes in the system you can enjoy WiFi or bring your own device option on-board for a fee.

Nearly empty plane. One of the last trips aboard a 737-400 before they were retired.

Leg room in the exit row on the retired 400s.

One of the challenges of reviewing Alaska Airlines is that I do my best to travel Alaska Air exclusively. Flights aboard Jet Blue, American, and Delta all convinced me that while the aircraft and seating may not vary much the customer service does. Time and time again Alaska Air demonstrates and provides some of the best customer service in the industry.

I'm old enough to remember the years that Alaska carried a number of different tail liveries. Today the Eskimo remains the signature of Alaska Airlines. Where ever our travels take us around the world, our Eskimo welcomes us, and brings us home.


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