In honor of my birthday, I decided to take advantage of a last minute Alaska Airlines Internet special ($79 r/t) and booked a day trip to SEA.
March 31 – AS 357 SFO-SEA
B737-400 N754AS “Spirit of Alaska”
I had to wake up very early for my 6:45 am flight out of SFO. Before leaving home, I decided to try out Alaska’s new web check-in service. While sipping my morning cup of coffee, I logged onto alaskaair.com and checked in for my flight. It was very quick and easy. I just entered my reservation number, answered the usual baggage / security questions and printed my boarding pass. Very simple. All I had to do now was present my homemade boarding pass along with my ID at the door when getting on the plane.
Alaska started boarding the flight very early at 6:05 for the 6:45 departure. I guess since this was the first flight of the day, they wanted to make sure they got the plane out on time. Once on board, I stopped by the cockpit to do my normal preflight check of the flight crew to make sure they had everything in order and then got myself situated in seat 19F, To my surprise this flight was 100% full. Not one empty seat, which was kind of a surprise to me for this early Saturday morning flight. Due to the full flight and AS trying to accommodate a few stand-by passengers, we pushed off the gate about 7 minutes late.
Once away from the gate we had a very short taxi to 1R followed by an immediate take off roll without stopping. A very rare experience for SFO. Once airborne we climbed to 31,000 for the flight up the west coast on a absolutely gorgeous spring morning. For the snack service, Alaska gave us a choice of muffins or a cinnamon roll with the usual beverage choices.
Before I knew it, we were starting out descent into the Seattle area. Traffic at SEA was landing from the north so we flew past the airport and circled back over downtown landing. We arrived at the gate right on schedule 8:45am.
When I arrived at SEA, the weather was overcast and drizzling and not very conducive for photography, so I decided to proceed with my back-up plan. I hopped on the Seattle Metro Bus and headed for the Museum of Flight just a few miles up the road at Boeing Field. After spending a few hours enjoying the museum, I noticed that the clouds were starting to break up and I was actually starting to see some sun. I decided to head back to SeaTac to get some photos while I could. While waiting for the bus, I saw the ever elusive (for me at least) Southwest New Mexico One on short final to SEA. I kew it would take me about 20 minutes to get back to the airport and I was hoping it would still be there when I got back. As the bus arrived at the airport, I could see it still parked at the gate. As I rushed back to the gate, I noticed another nice surprise parked a few gates away. It was the Delta “Soaring Spirit” B757 which has been another very elusive plane for me. The planes departed about 5 minutes apart and I was able to get photos of both as they departed. Another interesting plane at SEA was the World MD11 in AerLingus colors. It was operating a military charter to Okinawa. I was also able to get some great photos of Horizon Air’s new DHC-8-400’s.
March 31 – AS 592 SEA-SFO
Soon it was time to think about heading for home. I made my way over to one of Alaska’s self check-in machines to check in for my flight home. The machine was very simple to use. I just inserted the credit card that I had used to purchase my ticket and it pulled up my reservation. The machine asked me the same baggage / security questions and then I had the option to change my seat. Since my pre-assigned seat was in the very last row 26F, I decided to see if I could get something better. I was very pleased to see that both exit rows were completely open and I chose seat 13F.
While in the waiting area waiting to board, I noticed that most people had boarding passes either from the self check-in machines are from web check-in. Alaska offers bonus miles for people who use these services. Despite our inbound aircraft arriving about 15 minutes late from Fairbanks and Anchorage, our almost full flight was loaded and ready to go for an on-time push back at 6pm. Once again we taxied to the runway and took off without out stopping.
After departure we climbed to our cruising altitude of only 24,000 ft. I thought this was kind of low for a flight this long but about 30 minutes into the flight I could see the reason why. There was an upper cloud layer around 30,000 ft and the flight crew had chosen a smooth altitude in between the upper and a lower cloud layer. For our snack service on the flight home, we were served Turkey sandwiches. Soon we started our descent into the Bay Area. We flew over SFO and then down the peninsula before turning back for a final approach to 28L. While on final we flew in perfect formation with a Northwest A320 landing on 28R. If it had been daylight, I would have had fantastic photos. It was cool seeing the other plane just a few hundred feet off our wingtip. After landing we came to a stop at the gate exactly on-time.