Last summer I was pleasantly surprised by the meal I had on Alaska Airlines. I bulgogi chicken was excellent and even a bit spicy (airlines almost always do bland to meet the widest variety of tastes, but that’s a bad idea at altitude where your taste buds are already dulled). They even had printed menus.
This week I flew Alaska for the first time in 2019 and once again was blown away by the meal. I was flying on a legacy Virgin America Airbus A320 that hadn’t had its interior updated yet to the new Alaska Airlines standard. That meant I had the (admittedly worn) best domestic first class seat in the sky outside of routes with lie flat seats.
Flying Austin – San Francisco I had seats with footrests and tons of recline.
I had business meetings in San Francisco and made a day trip. That meant the 7:40 a.m. departure from Austin (making it to San Francisco at 9:30 a.m.) and the 6:50 p.m. flight home (returning after midnight). It’s a long day, but I could cram in a full slate of meetings without spending the night away. I was fortunate to have been booked into first class.
There were no pre-printed menus, but the first thing I noticed in the app is that not only is there an opportunity to pre-order your meal selection up to 24 hours prior to departure but you don’t just get the name of a dish but a full description of its accompaniments. That information remains available even when you can no longer pre-order.
Alaska Airlines doesn’t do predeparture beverages, but there’s a small bottle of water at each first class seat upon boarding which does the trick.
Perhaps the most impressive element of the service was the friendly flight attendants in both directions who seemed genuinely happy to be there. Here’s what surprised me the most:
An @AlaskaAir flight attendant just moved her own bag out of an overhead bin to make room for a first class passenger's bag up front. That. Actually. Happened. In. Real. Life.
— gary leff (@garyleff) May 2, 2019
Boarding 40 minutes prior to departure is wholly unnecessary in my opinion, the aircraft was fully boarded after 20 minutes and we pushed back early and were even airborne right at scheduled push back time.
My breakfast bowl was reasonably good with plenty of vegetables that actually tasted fresh. The breakfast bread was delicious and there was a blueberry smoothie to accompany it. I was most impressed by the presentation. It wasn’t just food thrown down on a plate that was shaken up in transport from the catering facility to the aircraft. Look at the symmetrical arrangement of the fruit.
For dinner there was a choice of tortellini or chicken. My seat mate didn’t opt for either so the flight attendant proactively offered to get him a fruit and cheese place that’s for sale in the back.
I’m not a big fan of chicken but didn’t feel like the pasta. I was shocked by how juicy it was, and perfectly seasoned, and again nicely presented.
I’d have been happy to have this meal for dinner at home, constraints of an aircraft galley aside. I cannot remember the last time I said that about a meal on a domestic flight.
There were hot towels and nuts served before dinner, and a warm chocolate chip cookie after. I wish they’d done a nicer dessert.
It’s a shame that Alaska is scaling back on the quality of its first class hard product as it standardizes its fleet after the the Virgin America merger. However on board catering they’re doing right — more so than my experiences in the past year with American, United, and Delta.