Recently, I traveled between San Francisco and Anchorage on a business trip. Since there have been some questions raised about the service on Alaska's SEA-ANC flights, I decided to write a trip report. I was pleased to find that the service was excellent on all four flights.
AS 177 737-400 SFO-SEA D 9:01 A 11:06
ANC-SEA D 11:59 A 14:34
During off-season, 177 is Alaska's only direct flight between SFO-ANC. And it does more...the flight originates in Palm Springs. And, after arriving in Anchorage, it back-tracks to Kodiak. So, this flight fills the bill for all those desert dwellers seeking brown bears
Upon nearing the gate at SFO, I was working against a steady flow of tanned people wearing shorts and tee-shirts headed for baggage claim. I was correct in assuming that the in-bound flight was already docked at gate 20. I took a seat in the waiting area, and drank a halfway decent "cuppacoffee" from a beverage stand stationed next to the ticket desk (good work, AS!). The flight was full, but we all boarded in an orderly manner, and I took my seat in row 20. The aircraft was immaculate, and the 33 inch seat pitch provided ample room for me to cross my legs. We sat at the gate until 9:10 (perhaps ATC...no explanation was offered), but our plane was in the air by 9:20. During our 90 minute flight, a beverage service was offered (F/A gave me the full can of coke), along with a choice of a lemon raisin scone or a piece of coffeecake. A tasty apricot mango yogurt was also provided. Since the F/As had leftovers, I sampled (and enjoyed) both pastries. Our flight was smooth, and the captain did the usual routine of pointing out the many sights along the way. Seattle was shrouded in stratus clouds, but there was no delay in landing, and we were at gate D11 by 10:56. I remained on the plane during our time on the ground, and the cleaning crew was shocked but very appreciative when I offered to help them tidy things up (they devoted much of their energies to cleaning up the results of an airsick passenger in row 23). Naturally, I also used the time to grab all the interesting titles from the magazine rack in front of the aft lav.
Our departure to Anchorage was scheduled for 11:59, and we had no problem meeting that time. The flight was roughly 95% full, and the open seat next to me disappeared. It never ceases to amaze me that almost every flight I take between SEA-ANC is packed, even in April. Just before we reach crusing altitude, the two coach F/As come through with drinks and mixed nuts. I was not charged for my beer. About 30 minutes later, the F/As returned with another beverage service and a hot lunch. There was either a pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and chicken served in a bowl, or a grilled ham and swiss cheese sandwich on a brioche (better known to me as a "Croque Monsieur"). I had the sandwich, which was very tasty, and came with a small salad and a "chocolate brownie chip" cookie. The scenery on the flight was beautiful as always, and after our sharp right turn into ANC, we landed and arrived at gate B3 at 14:35. I checked one small bag, which came out quickly.
I always enjoy visiting Anchorage, but was too busy to see any sights while I was there. The weather featured some light rain and snow, with temps in the 40s. I stayed at the Anchorage Hilton, which is generic, but more than adequate. My room was clean and did not have a musty aroma, and included a dataport, refrigerator, coffeemaker and iron/board. The rooms had been redecorated since my last visit, and the bathrooms were improved.
AS 160 ANC-SEA-SFO MD-83 ANC-SEA D 16:22 A 20:40
SEA-SFO D 21:26 A 23:26
My kiosk check-in worked perfectly, but once again I learned that there were no seats available for a First Class upgrade. I arrived at the airport early, and regretted my decision, as Anchorage is not the best airport to have to kill time in. I ate at some lousy sandwich and soup joint, and then snapped a few shots of an RAA Electra. About an hour before departure, I headed to gate B1 to await my flight. Fortunately, the plane arrived from Fairbanks a few minutes early, and we boarded on-time, and pushed precisely at 16:22. I was on the two seat side, and the window seat next to me was one of a handful of open seats on the plane. Once at cruising altitude, the flight attendents handed out peanuts with a little AS 734 on the package, and came through with drinks. The routine followed as it had on the last flight, with a second drink service and meal service a half hour or so later. For dinner tonight, there was a choice of a ravioli in a tomato sauce with "spring vegetables," or a breast of chicken on top of spinach fettucine alfredo, with veggies. I had the chicken dish, which was tasty and had a hint of cayenne pepper. Both entrees came with a wheat roll, a salad topped with vegetables (naturally, it had the omnipresent "Albuquerque Ranch" Dressing), and a large slice of apple crumble. The whole meal was very filling for a three hour Y class flight, and the standard of service on this route hasn't changed much over the years. About an hour before landing in Seattle, we hit a patch of clear air turbulence, and some troublemaker in the row behind me exclaimed "its the jackscrew, we're all gonna die!" Old wounds die hard. Anyway, we landed smoothly in Seattle at 20:25, and it appeared everyone managed to keep their barf bags pristine. We pulled into gate D2 ten minutes early at 20:30.
The flight to SFO began with another on-time pushback, and were off the ground quickly. During the safety announcement, the F/A did an impersonation of Vanna White, which nobody really seemed to relate to. The flight was once again full. Drinks and snacks were served, but I actually managed to sleep through most of this very smooth and uneventful flight. There was a slight delay in landing, but we were on the ground by 23:29. The baggage claim area was deserted, and I was on my way home in record time.
Alaska gets an "A" for four very pleasant flights. All were on-time, and it was hard to find fault with any aspect of them, even the inflight service. I guess my only wish would be for lower load factors, but I was pleased to see Alaska getting plenty of business.