AS Hawaiian Service OCT 2007
Just flew Alaska Airlines’ inaugural flight from Honolulu to Seattle, and it was a great experience and I believe that Alaska Airlines is one of the few airlines left, which could do an excellent inaugural flight. Virgin America has the hype, but in terms of souvenirs, Alaska is the best with first flight certificate and good gift bags. Additionally, this inaugural flight is truly historic for Alaska Airlines, and reaches one of the destinations that the original Alaska Airlines’ founders has always dreamed of flying to.
October 12, 2007
AS 852 HNL-SEA Lv1333 Arr2215 Boeing 737-800 w/winglet N559AS “Lei tail”
Delta Airlines and Swissport are the groud agents for Alaska Airliners.
Alaska Airlines’ check-in is located at Lobby four right next to Delta Airlines, and due to AS’ recent entry, some of the drivers (of buses and taxies) may not know where AS is located, just tell them Delta Airlines.
There are four kiosks in the front, with one First Class/MVP Gold counter, and one regular line, with a ticketing counter located on the usual ticketing back row, next to DL again.
As for the first day of operations, things went pretty slowly, as the agents were still not familiar with Alaska procedures. Many AS uniformed staffs were assisting the Delta Airlines’ agents, and I don’t know how many of them will become permanent or just temporarily helping out. Nonetheless both the AS and DL agents were friendly and apologetic about the slowness of lines.
While checking in, there were Eskimos or Alaskan native dancers performing various Alaskan native dances and rituals to bless the inaugural flight. It was actually very interesting and good to see some real Alaskan influences here, and something a bit different from the hula dances. It was interesting that AS even planned some kinds of celebration at the check-in area.
TSA Security line:
Gold Lane is available for MVP G and F passengers, but of course, Honolulu rarely recognizes this gold lane privilege, and combined with folks carrying lots of bags and non-English speaking passengers, the whole TSA process was rather painful.
Arrival of inbound aircraft:
I tracked the flight before I left for the airport and things were running smoothly and early indeed. The inbound flight landed at 11:33am and parked at gate 23 shortly after, and of course, due to the TSA hold up and the confusing layout of HNL, I missed seeing the water salute and caught the plane just pulled into the gate. What a beautiful sight! Arriving passengers were greeted by staffs passing out lots of lei, and there was a Hawaiian band and Hula dancers performing. Each of the arriving passengers carried a unique blue Hawaiian theme tote bags engraved with Inaugural Seattle to Honolulu flights October 12, 2007, (and I wish I will get one of these special tote bags on my inaugural Seattle to Lihue flight on the 29th), which I assume was the inaugural gift from the Seattle side.
Festivities at Gate 23:
The same Hawaiian band and Hula Dancers performed again at a stage opposite from gate 23, and there was a refreshment buffet featuring a nice cake, Kona coffee, Passionfruit-Guava-Orange punch, and bottled waters. The load looked pretty healthy and some passengers actually did not know that today was the first flight. There were also many employees waiting to get on this historically significant flight. Many employees from various departments were greeting each other and it was like a small family reunion, and of course, a few of them were doing the same day turnaround.
Boarding began at 12:52pm and passengers requiring special needs were welcomed first, and then followed by first and MVPG members. While boarding, Alaskan staffs welcomed us on board with an Alaska Airlines tote bags featuring Seattle Best’s Coffee, Seattle Best’s Milk Chocolate Truffle bar, a “Best Places” Seattle Tour Book, as well as a “Metro-natural” Seattle mug. Also Hawaiian Tourism Board was greeting each departing passengers with more lei. Once on board, two F/As wearing the new AS Hawaiian themed uniforms greeted us, and the whole atmosphere was cheerful. The usual bottled waters were there, and door was closed early at 1:28pm. The flight went out almost all full, and an interesting employee sharing also my first name was seated next to me. He worked at LAX and IT, but I really did not talk much because I was so exhausted due to my severe nose allergy and just flying across various time zones. Anyway, severe current and ex-employees were in first class and talking among themselves, and all were happy about this new flight, and the purser of the flight shared her story. She started her training forty years ago, and back then, the CEO Charles Willis had once brought out a map of places that AS wanted to fly, including the east coast and Hawaii. As we all know, AS has already started flying to many of the major east coast hubs and Hawaii is the perfect next step, and this new aircraft type Boeing 737-800 really works well to this new destination.
We pushed back at 1:49pm, which was delayed due to late clearance by the ATC, and we took off from the famous reef runway 8R at 2:04pm. Flying time was five hours and seventeen minutes, and a direct path from Honolulu to Seattle – all over Pacific Ocean till we began our descent as we approached the coast of Washington state. We first climbed up to 34,000feet, and then 35,000feet before reaching the final attitude of 37,000feet.
It was another average Alaska Airlines flight, and the F/As were in good mood, but I have one minor complaint – they collected the Dig E players before we even commenced the descent and everything seemed to be very rushing at the end with no apparent good reason. Some of the F/As are also just learning about then new “enhancements” and the getting used to various new glassware and stuff. Other than that, it is a good average Alaska Airlines’ flight.
As we know, Aloha October is the theme, and this flight was definitely carrying a Hawaiian theme. At the same time, the F/As seemed to be unfamiliar with the specific Hawaiian themed service. Here is the list of service items listed by the Alaska magazine.
- Mauna Loa’s Macadamia Nuts on all daytime beverage flights
- Cougar Mountain Waikiki Beach White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookies on morning and late night beverage flights
- Johnny Love Pineapple Vodka will be available (for purchase in Y)
- Hawaiian-themed Northing bites meals – Kalbi beef bowl and Portuguese sausage breakfast skillet
- Hawaii’s own Kona Longboard Island Lager will be one of the beers available for purchase
- New uniforms
- For Main Cabin, complimentary POG or a Mai Tai after takeoff
- Special Hawaiian first class entrées and desserts
- Dig E players have a “Discover Hawaii” Channel
So what was really being served? Yes the Hawaiian themed music and F/A uniforms…all designed to get you into the holiday mood. Mauna Loa’s Macadamia nuts accompanied the first beverage service at both cabins (as well as non-Hawaii flights), and there were Hawaiian Sun’s guava nectar and Passionfruit-Guava Punch available in both cabins (only on Hawaiian flights). The Cougar mountain cookies were served along with the final beverage service in the main cabin. And in first class, we got our dessert served at that time and I assume we will get the cookie if dessert is served after entrée. For the main cabin, there was no mentioning of the free first drink though, but Kalbi beef bow (a Korean sweet barbecue sauce marinated beef) with Island fried rice was offered as one of the Northern Bites meals. Moreover, in terms of beverage, the mai tai mixers did not make it on this flight and the F/As claimed that this special drink is only available ex-Seattle, which was really strange if you ask me, but the Kona Longboard Lager and Johnny Love Pineapple Vodka were offered.
Menus were available and as a menu collector, it is a welcome sight and I took some pictures of them. Here is the menu transcript:
Welcome Aboard Alaska Airlines
Shrimp Cake with Tabouli & Mixed Greens
Warm Taro or Macadamia Nut Roll
Choice of Entrées
Kalbi Beef Ribs
Hawaiian Fried Rice
Fresh Asian stir-fried vegetables
Mahi Mahi with Olive & Herb Butter
Broccolini and Red Roasted Peppers
We feature Northwest and California Wines
Hawaiian Sweet Potato Hupia Pie
Coffee & Liqueurs
I was really impressed with the new meal service, and the appetizer salad was very filling and impressive. It even matches some of the quality of world-class international airlines, but there was no choice of bread rolls – up to the F/As and I got the Macadamia Nut rolls, which was nice and warmed. For main course, I had the Kalbi beef ribs, which were very nice, but this entrée was too much like the Kalbi beef roll sold in Y. Anyway, F got nicer short ribs, and I recommend it. The sauce was a bit too sweet for me, and if you don’t like sweet stuff, remember to ask the F/A to put the sauce on the side. The Mahi Mahi was very popular as expected. There was no second mixed nut service in F, as the F/As saved the dessert for the final beverage service.
The new glassware and china are a bit plain though. AS has adopted the “simple” modern trend, and everything becomes all white, and the glassware also loses the unique twirl pattern, and the coffee mug is in a square shape, but I like the old gold pattern designs. Also all these new china and glassware no longer have a prominent Alaska Airlines label and I assume it is a way to cut costs and make finding replacement glasses and china easier.
Dig E Players – usual stuff and the Hawaiian channel are more like gimmick. There was a speech by the governor of Hawaii welcoming Alaska Airlines, and two really short brief introductory videos of Oahu and Kauai, which can actually use some more substances. A few detailed documentaries about Hawaii from various travel channels will be appreciated. Yes, there was an episode of Hawaii-Five-O for those who cared.
Hot towels were back, and I think it is always a nice feature for first class and relatively low cost item. Descent began at 9:58pm Seattle local time, and we landed on R/W34C at 10:21pm and parked at gate D5 six minutes later.
It was a great experience and thanks Alaska Airlines for planning great festivities at the gate, and the Alaska tote bag is appreciated, as well as the certificate. As an aviation enthusiast, those first flight certificate is definitely the highlight of flying inaugural flights, and I hope other US and international airlines can learned from AS. The new Hawaiian theme on-board items are fine and should please most passengers, especially the macadamia nuts and the cookies. For F, the printed menus were nice and I hope Alaska can keep it up. Comparing with Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines is still a bit behind because Hawaiian offers free meals in economy class and the widebody aircraft makes it a better ride. However with a strong mileage plan base in Pacific Northwest, Alaska Airlines’ service should be successful. At least AS tried to impress passengers with free first Hawaiian themed cocktail in main cabin and nice beverage accompaniments. Dig E players is also a nice thing to have. AS First class is comparable to Hawaiian first class, and hopefully Alaska can keep up the service.