San Jose Inaugural trip report
As promised, another short but sweet trip report on Alaska Airlines’ Inaugural flight from San Jose, CA to Maui, and the return inaugural flight from Kona to San Jose, CA! Alaska Airlines certainly takes these Hawaiian inaugural flights seriously and the festivities were nonstop from the gate to the flight, and Alaska’s team in San Jose, CA definitely was the highlight of another successful trip. Unfortunately I am not likely going to maintain my MVP Gold status next year and concentrate on American and Delta, but will certainly miss this spirit of Alaska Airlines.
March 11, 2010
AS 895 SJC-OGG Lv0730 Arr1105 Boeing 737-800 Winglet N563AS “Lei”
The day definitely began with an early wakeup call from Doubletree San Jose Airport hotel and the ride was interesting to the airport, as I was sharing it with an Alaska Airlines employee working the inaugural events for the next two days. I found out that the move to Terminal B will happen June 30 and share my thoughts on the necessity for a real PTV like Continental, Delta, Jetblue and Virgin America and universal power outlets if they want to expand the wifi capability. But Alaska is still not sure about the weight issues and thinks with the future of ipads and other handheld units, Alaska does not need to worry about PTV, which I disagree. It made the short ride to the airport interesting.
Check-in area was very crowded with the 7am Seattle flight, as well as our Maui flight. The load was pretty heavy, as it was full both in F and Y. The agent checking me in was cheerful and they seemed to be expecting me, as I was the only MVP Gold passenger this morning. The TSA area was not busy and I got through shortly after. The festivities had already begun at the gate when I arrived. There was the usual buffet station and the gate featured a Hawaiian village theme with small huts and a Hawaiian band. Hula dances and a blessing ceremony were taking place, as I rushed to the observation deck – one good feature that I will miss in the future with the new Terminal at San Jose. I took many pictures of this beautiful Alaska’s Boeing 737-800 N563AS, as the Hawaiian men approached the plane. After the dance, there were the usual speeches from San Jose mayor, as well as a number of local and Alaska Airlines officials. There was a ribbon cutting ceremony and then I was invited up to the stage, while they thanked me again and soon enough, and then I mingled with the crowd and even enjoyed a short conversation with a retired employee of Alaska Airlines and who could imagine AS expanding into Hawaii. Boarding began at 6:49am. There was the usual beach bag, and I got a personal laptop bag filled with goodies (for future reference, I don’t care about the beach stuff, but more Alaska labeled stuff… just for all the Alaska Airlines insiders!) and really appreciated all the special care.
I waited a bit to board, as the San Jose staffs were really cool people and a few people even remembered my trip reports, and wanted to take the opportunities to take a few close up pictures of this nice 737, as you don’t get the chances to walk up a ramp and be so close to the plane. The flight was full and soon I was in 1A preparing for this flight. Door was closed early at 7:21am and we pushed back four minutes later. San Jose was very quiet and we took off from R/W30R at 7:32am. Flying time was five hours and nineteen minutes this morning and we cruised at 36,000feet and then 39,000feet. It was all over the water from the Bay area to Maui.
Beverage was served first and then followed by the normal breakfast service. Here is the menu transcript! A new menu cycle for me!
Good Morning and Welcome Aboard Alaska Airlines
First Class Breakfast
Fresh Seasonal Fruit Bowl
Warm Fresh Pastries
Choice of Entrées
Hawaiian French Toast
Pineapple topping, Coconut & Macadamia Nuts
Asiago, Purple Potato & Portuguese Sausage Frittata
Potatoes with Grilled Peppers and Onions
The fruit bowl was quite nice with melon, blueberries, orange and strawberry, and the breadbasket seemed to be cut, and a nice warmed almond Danish was already in the tray. I had the frittata entrée, which were okay and the French toasts looked nice. There was no longer a dessert item on the menu and there was a round of beverage and packaged macadamia nuts served prior to arrival. The San Jose team played a few trivia games with the passengers after the breakfast service, and it was lots of fun and I found out that most northern, southern, eastern and western city served by Alaska, which are Barrow, Ixtapa, Boston and Adak, and we crossed the midpoint at 10:03:12. The team also passed out some nice chocolate covered cookies by Big Island’s Candies prior to arrival. I did not mention the F/As because I felt the service was only average and definitely not the typical excellent F/As we got on inaugural flights. It was not bad, but just very average and not the shining examples that Alaska Airlines usually place on the inaugural flights. Considered that this set of crew will get two full nights at Maui, so I was slightly disappointed.
Descent began at 10:31am Hawaiian time and we landed on R/W2 at 10:51am and parked at gate 33 five minutes later, and there were more “leis” and Hawaiian music for the arrival passengers.
I flew to Honolulu after the inaugural flight, and then had a pleasant evening there. The weather was nice – not too hot and pretty dry. I flew back to Kona the next morning for the inaugural flight from Kona to San Jose.
March 12, 2010
AS 894 KOA-SJC Lv1220 Arr1935 Boeing 737-800 Winglet N558AS “Lei”
The return flight was definitely a bit better despite the smaller scale of celebration understandably. I arrived Kona around 10am and found out that Alaska Airlines operated at the Gate 6-10 satellite. The check in area was quiet as it was a light load back to San Jose and the Seattle bound passengers had yet to arrive yet. The agent was pleasant and the TSA was very friendly and knew about the new San Jose flight. I managed to catch the glimpse of the Japan Airlines’ Boeing 767-300ER JA605J in its final boarding stage and flying back to Honolulu and then onto Tokyo. It was very nice and it will be better if it was the Boeing 747-300 when they started first. It was nice to see the only daily international flight at Kona to depart. Kona was fairly quiet and I saw the folks busy preparing for the arrival of the first AS flight from San Jose. The plane arrived early at 10:47am and parked at gate 3 a few minutes later. Hawaiian music, hula dancer and more leis are waiting for the arriving passengers and it was a big surprise to see the excellent San Jose team that I met the day before. They were very friendly and I took a picture with the group.
Well the load back to San Jose was 32, and both the Hawaiian operation manager and his assistant were playing trivia games at the gate and some lucky passengers got an upgrade to first class. There were three F passengers when I checked in. There was a small buffet with POG juice, bottled water and Hawaiian coconut cake. Boarding soon began at 12:02pm and everyone was settled very quickly. Unfortunately due to some schedule mix-ups, the crew did not arrive at the airport early enough and due to some late paperwork, we did not push back till 12:31pm. The poor Seattle flight, surprisingly operated by N563AS, which I flew the day before to Maui, arrived early and had to wait for us to clear out.
Cheri and Ross handled the first class passengers this afternoon and with a light load in Y, two F/As were sufficient to handle it. Menus were passed out and I had both 1A and 1C to myself, which was not a common occurrence at Alaska Airlines. We pushed back at 12:34pm and took off from R/W17 at 12:44pm. Flying time was four hours and fifty-four minutes with an initial cruising attitude of 39,000feet and then up to 41,000feet and return to 37,000feet. Here is the menu transcript:
Red Pepper Hummus Pitas
Served with Gourmet Mixed Greens
Warmed Rolls with Butter
Choice of Entrées
Braised Pork Shank with a Savory Sun-dried Tomato Relish
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Chicken Marsala with sautéed mushroom & caramelized onion sauce
Penne Pasta with Olive Oil
Sautéed Green Beans
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Well this was definitely not my favorite menu and the hummus pita appetizer was still tasted strange and awkward. It was nice to have some Hawaiian sweet rolls though (I missed the Taro rolls though). I had some Mai Tai with macadamia nuts, and followed the appetizer tray and then entrée. No surprise that the Chicken Marsala was the popular selection here. I think it should not be two meat entrée selection – should always be one meat and one seafood choice. Ross was the one passing out the meal trays and refilling the drinks. There was definitely a marked different when two F/As were carrying out the whole service, compared to the usual one. I think on full flights, one F/A should at least assist with the first beverage service in F before going back to Y. Cherie was pretty good with beverage refills throughout the flight and pineapple upside down cake was served mid-flight. The F/As were definitely much better on the return flight and with the light load, everyone were in good spirit.
Descent soon began at 7:08pm PST and there was some light shower in the area and things were slowed down a bit. We landed on R/W30L at 7:38pm and soon parked at gate C8 five minutes later. In conclusion, it was an excellent trip especially the enthusiastic team in San Jose, which just makes that additional touch to it. The flight over there was not that great but not bad, and the excellent team on the return flight made it better. Unfortunately I can’t do the Sacramento inaugural, which was actually the flight that I really want to because SMF will be a new airport to me. However, my mom’s big 60 birthday is more important. Hopefully someone can report on it!
Thanks AS Hawaiian & San Jose team, as well as Cheri and Ross on AS 894!