Chugach From United States of America, joined Dec 2004, 1041 posts, RR: 2 Posted (8 years 11 months 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 5586 times:
I don't normally do trip reports anymore unless it's to a Bush Alaska city, but after a completely bizarre experience this weekend on AS, I felt compelled to report this. No pictures, thanks to my camera cord being in my checked bag, which is a couple thousand miles away from me at the moment.
I had planned a trip to Colorado to go a friend's wedding, using AS on the ANC-DEN leg and F9 on DEN-ANC. I didn't want to take the AS redeye and arrive bleary-eyed, so my routing was to be ANC-PDX-DEN on AS 110 and AS 2506, with a scheduled departure from ANC at 13:25 and arrival into DEN at 23:25.
To make a long story short, that didn't happen.
Seat 15D, Boeing 737-800
Scheduled: 1:25 PM
Actual: 5:15 PM
I arrived to the ANC mayhem at noon on Friday, and stood in one of the MVP check-in lines. There were two people ahead of me; after about five minutes the agent looks at me and says, point blank, "Can I help you?" I say that well, I would like to check in and drop my bag off. Response: "I'm closed after this gentleman in front of you." End of discussion.
This meant that none of the MVP check-in areas were open. Now, let me pose a question: What the hell is the point of being an MVP Gold on AS when you can't utilize the MVP Gold check-in at ANC, which happens to be one of their hub cities, and in their namesake state?
I waited in another line for about 20 minutes (AS has never done a good job of adequately staffing the ANC check-in area during the busy summer season; this has been brought up at Gold lunches but never corrected), dropped my bag off, and was informed that AS 110 was delayed until 2:45 due to crew rest issues.
The Board Room wasn't crowded this afternoon, so I happily surfed the internet and snacked the time away, and headed to gate C5 at about 2:15. I claimed my exit row aisle seat, and soon enough everybody was on board. And we waited. After about 15 minutes, the lead flight attendant announces that we have all the passengers and all the cargo, but are missing a very important component: the pilots. Turns out the pilots had been weathered in at Kotzebue, and were on their way to the gate at that moment.
A few minutes later, one pilot comes on-board. He introduces himself as the First Officer, announces that he will complete the necessary paperwork while the captain does the walk-around. And we wait, for about 30 minutes. I've done enough traveling to know that when you sit at a gate for that long, something is wrong. Sure enough, our lead flight attendant comes back on and says, quote, "I guess I'm the chosen one." She then proceeded to announce that our pilots had timed out due to FAA regulations, and that everybody had to get off the plane. She assured us that there would be plenty of agents to handle the re-booking of people with connections.
As it turned out, "plenty of agents" meant a grand total of three agents to re-book a full 738. I took one look at the line, said to myself "screw it", and went straight to the Board Room, expecting that I could be issued a boarding pass for a new connection in there.
Well, I was wrong, along with about 10 other people who had the exact same idea that I did. Either the policy has changed regarding what Board Room agents can or can't do, or this agent just didn't know how to do it.
So now, I am at the very end of the line of this mass of people. After waiting for another 30 minutes to get to an agent, I survey my options and elect to stay on AS 110 and overnight in PDX, connecting on to AS 584 to DEN in the morning. My family lives in Portland, so it wasn't a bad alternative. I then asked her about my checked luggage, and was assured that I could pick it up that night in Portland.
By the time this re-booking was taken care of, I had a few minutes to adjust my hotel and rental car reservations before re-claiming seat 15D. Most people had chosen to take other flights by that point, so now our 738 was only about half full.
Soon enough we were finally on our way to PDX, with the flight attendants serving free drinks in coach as a gesture of goodwill. I almost feel sorry for the flight attendants on AS these days; I overheard one of them mention on this flight that in-flight amenities have been reduced so much that there isn't much they can do to make people happy except smile and be friendly, and unfortunately this is all too true on AS in this era,
We touched down on 10L at PDX around 10:00 PM, and had a quick taxi to gate C3. I hustled down to the baggage claim, and sure enough, no bag. I went to the baggage service office and filed a claim with an agent who couldn't even find my bag in the system, but said that it would probably just be in Denver in the morning when I got there.
I was exhausted, so I jumped in a rental car and headed to my folks' house, got about five hours of sleep, and headed back to PDX in the morning.
Seat 13A, Boeing 737-700
Actual: On time!
This was a completely uneventful flight to DEN, which was good because I slept most of the way. We landed in DEN a few minutes early, and I trundled on down to the baggage claim where, sure enough, no bag. After a brief consultation with the baggage agent, my bag had been found and had, lo and behold, never even left Anchorage. It was scheduled to be put on to AS 82, but since I was due to head back to ANC the next evening, I told the agent to not have my bag sent to Denver and that I would just pick it up in Anchorage.
From that point, it was on to the rental car with nothing but my laptop bag.
Seat 15C, Airbus A319
Scheduled: 6:55 PM
Actual: On Time
I elected to go with F9 on the return, for a few reasons: First, it was nonstop. Second, it was timed much better than the AS nonstop on this route (10:25 PM arrival in ANC, compared with a 1:00 AM arrival on AS). Third, I just wanted to try something new and I've heard good things about F9.
I wasn't disappointed.
In fact, this F9 flight was the best economy-class experience I've had on any airline in a very long time. The legroom was enough for me to stretch out and not hit the seat in front of me (I'm 6'1), the seats were extremely comfortable, the food served was excellent, and the IFE was outstanding. I don't ever recall a 5 hour flight passing as quickly as this one.
The DirecTV was free as it is on all ANC flights, and I passed the time watching the College World Series, Ice Road Truckers, and last but not least part of U2's ZooTV tour on VH1 Classic. After the satellite television lost the signal as we headed north, I paid for Wild Hogs.
About an hour into the flight the FA's came around with the wraps and drink service. The wraps were some of the best food I've had on any airline, coach or first class, in a long time, and best of all, they didn't make you pay extra for it. About an hour out of Anchorage, the warm cookies were served, a nice touch at the end of a long flight. We made a smooth landing on a rainy 7L, and taxied over to gate B5.
With UA giving ANC the shaft and going seasonal, I really hope F9 looks at making ANC a year-round destination. With the absence of UA on ANC-DEN and a little bit of target advertising in ANC, I think they could carve out a nice little niche for themselves. Granted one flight doesn't make an airline, but I came away very, very impressed with F9. They struck me as an airline that really seems to "get it".
After landing, I headed down to the AS baggage claim to find my long lost bag. And for those of you keeping score at home, you can probably guess what happened:
Yes, after I told them not to, AS sent it to Denver. I'm still eagerly awaiting its arrival back in Anchorage.
RwSEA From Netherlands, joined Jan 2005, 3286 posts, RR: 2
Reply 1, posted (8 years 11 months 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 5464 times:
Quoting Chugach (Thread starter): I almost feel sorry for the flight attendants on AS these days; I overheard one of them mention on this flight that in-flight amenities have been reduced so much that there isn't much they can do to make people happy except smile and be friendly, and unfortunately this is all too true on AS in this era,
That pretty much sums up AS right there. Nothing special at all, except for the great FAs and employees. They try to do what they can, but the rest of the operation is continuing in a downward spiral. Timeliness has improved from a couple years ago, but could still stand to improve. Baggage handling at SEA still sucks, with 45 minutes being the norm to retrieve a bag. First class is nothing more than a bigger seat on most flights (except for a very poor quality meal on transcons, and a "free" BOB on the mid-cons). The mileage plan is a bright spot, though.
AS used to be a great airline. The employees still reflect that, from the FAs to the ground agents to the call centers. The rest of the experience does not. Unfortunately, people in Alaska and in SEA/PDX are more or less stuck with them unless they like to connect.
AirTranTUS From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (8 years 11 months 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 5368 times:
Great Report. Hope you get your bag soon.
Quoting RwSEA (Reply 1): That pretty much sums up AS right there. Nothing special at all, except for the great FAs and employees.
I've always heard good things about AS on this site. It is sad it is not true.
I have also heard good things always about F9, both on this site and from family. I have wanted to fly them, but they tend to be much more expensive and the routings are not the greatest as compared to other airlines.
AA737-823 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 6290 posts, RR: 10
Reply 3, posted (8 years 11 months 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 5312 times:
Have you tried Continental?
I had a good experience on AS in 2005, but that seems to be the exception.
And, as an employee of a company OTHER THAN Alaska here at Ted Stevens, I can tell you that nobody on the airfield likes them except for... their own employees.
Their guys are complete jerks on the ramp, and compromise my safety regularly during wintertime ops... but let's not get into that.
In short, I am typically pleased with my trips on Continental (silver elite this year, woohoo), and wish you'd try them.
Unless you're always going to Denver, then Conti makes no sense.
Many times. Just did ANC-IAH-ANC about a week and a half ago. CO's about the best out of the majors these days. I'm usually going to PDX or IAH; obviously they make sense on IAH, but it's a hassle to use them to PDX.
Cactus739 From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 2457 posts, RR: 29
Reply 6, posted (8 years 11 months 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 4901 times:
Quoting Chugach (Thread starter): In fact, this F9 flight was the best economy-class experience I've had on any airline in a very long time
I tried Frontier for the first time myself this year and I was thoroughly impressed too. Good seats, clean planes and very very friendly crews. (I didn't get any food, phx-den-mci)... but it was a great experience.
Last time I flew Alaska was a few years ago. PHX-SEA ad back. Flight was late, bag was lost, waited 20 minutes at the gate in SEA for rampers to show up....and the return wasn't much better. I grew up in Fairbanks and always used Alaska and back then they were something special and always a great ride... I miss those days.
Alaska737 From United States of America, joined Feb 2006, 1063 posts, RR: 4
Reply 7, posted (8 years 11 months 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 4813 times:
Quoting AirTranTUS (Reply 2): I've always heard good things about AS on this site. It is sad it is not true.
well one trip doesnt mean AS isnt good in general. i have flown over 400000 miles on AS and have had very very very few bad expirences, and its not as if other airlines dont have these types of issues. im sorry for your trip but dont give up on AS.
Quoting AA737-823 (Reply 3): compromise my safety regularly during wintertime ops... but let's not get into that.
im sorry but if your going to say that i would like some proof to how AS compromises saftey
Quoting RwSEA (Reply 1): the operation is continuing in a downward spiral
sure it is, there making money, not in bankruptcy, getting new planes, and they have a few delayed or cancelled flights
Chugach From United States of America, joined Dec 2004, 1041 posts, RR: 2
Reply 8, posted (8 years 11 months 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 4767 times:
Quoting Alaska737 (Reply 7): sure it is, there making money, not in bankruptcy, getting new planes, and they have a few delayed or cancelled flights
The point there is that while, yeah, AS is profitable, flying them is no longer the fun experience it once was. There was a time, and it wasn't long ago, where it was a treat to fly AS. While the cost-cutting and outsourcing may have been necessary to stay in business, it also took AS down to the level of every other major.
Don't get me wrong, I won't be giving up my MVP Gold status, at least not as long as I live in Alaska, but one of the reasons I enjoyed F9 so much is that the general vibe reminded me a lot of what AS used to be like. I still generally enjoy flying AS and appreciate that their customer service is still top notch (although this baggage experience has left me a little sour), but at the same time I'm not afraid to call them out when I see a need for improvement. I think that's the best thing I can do for them as one of their most frequent fliers.
In fact, I'll tell you the exact moment I realized that AS was changing: I got on a SEA-ANC flight, I believe in early 2002, and for "lunch" they handed me a sandwich and a napkin. That was it. No basket or tray to hold the sandwich. I knew right then and there that the times, they were a' changin.
Also, the saga of "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey of Chugach's Bag" finally came to a conclusion tonight as I drove out to Uncle Ted International Airport to pick up my bag, fresh in from Denver. It was covered in dirt and two straps were broken.
ForeverUnited From United States of America, joined May 2006, 92 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (8 years 11 months 1 day ago) and read 4499 times:
I'm a former AS MVP Gold myself until I switched to United a little while ago. Unfortunately since everyone is addicted to the crack that also goes by the name Alaska Mileage Plan, or the crystal meth that is also known as the $50 Companion Certificate (which is almost never a *bonafide* savings because Alaska's fares are higher - i.e it's often cheaper to buy two tickets on another carrier than it is to buy one ticket plus $50 + tax on Alaska), there are really few other considerations when it comes to buying a ticket out of Anchorage for most of our population. United wouldn't have needed to jump ship if Alaskans could stomach losing their now nearly worthless MVP / Gold status to support the competition from time to time. I definitely think fares will rise higher, faster, with "one man down". Currently the only carrier serving Anchorage year-round not "in bed" with Alaska is USAirways, and while nothing special, at least their catering in First isn't the same as coach (which technically makes Alaska's "First Class" product a Business Class product), and they'll have my business. Don't even have to switch FF programs.
I can concur with AA737-800. A few years ago when I was working on the ramp for a non-AS carrier, so to speak, I was moving baggage carts into bag drop. The area was pretty tight, with bag drop and upload next to each other and an Alaska ramper was loading bags carts very close to where I had to be. I pulled my string of carts in partially, dismounted to check and see if I had enough clearance, and before I could even get a good view, the Alaska ramper had disconnected the first cart from my tug, dropped the towbar loudly on the floor (safety issue, no brakes when you leave it like that) and yelled "Push 'em by hand!" I'm a pacifist, so I did, without complaint, but I was really soured on the entire situation. I'd also been mistreated by an Alaska captain while working in a retail outlet at ANC the summer prior. Now, neither position is really one with heavy public contact, but there do seem to be more than a good share of employees at Alaska (especially in Alaska) who are quick to forget that their actions while on duty reflect their company, and that non-passengers should always be regarded as "hopefully future passengers".
I completely see where you are coming from, but, unfortunately enough, if you are going from Alaska to any Northwest city, you are stuck with AS. The lone exception being CO to SEA. But if you want to do ANC-PDX, you're on AS whether you like it or not, unless you want to take the (very) long way around through SLC. I try to support the other carriers in ANC when I can, but when 80% of my travel is to the Pacific Northwest, I'm on AS because there's not really another choice.