Friday, January 18, 2013

Flying Alaska to Hawaii

We just got back from our first trip of the year to Maui on Alaska Airlines and I have to say I was impressed...very impressed. I've been flying United to Hawaii all of my life, so switching airlines at this point is kind of a big deal. Over the years I've noticed a lot of changes, many of them that I didn't like, until finally it got to the point where I just couldn't take any more so my family decided to pick a new airline for all of our Hawaii travel. I wasn't expecting much seeing as how we don't have status on Alaska (yet), but I came away from this experience feeling like my business was truly appreciated, even as a general-member. Alaska runs a great airline. All of the people we encountered were friendly, everyone (including other passengers) seemed happy to be there, and the airline really goes above and beyond to make sure flying to Hawaii is something special.

So I already kind of knew that Alaska was a nice airline when we decided to make the switch. My husband and I flew with them back in 2011 when they were offering a 25,000 mile promotion to Hawaii for new Northern California Mileage Plan members. The deal was too good to pass up. We then status matched to MVP gold, got even more miles, were upgraded to First Class, and even enjoyed some our elite benefits and a free upgrade on Delta (Alaska and Delta are partners). Unfortunately, it was later in the year, I shortly thereafter found out I was pregnant, and we didn't fly enough after that to keep the back to United it was. Anyway, what impressed me most about this latest trip was how nice things were in the back of the plane, which is where we now fly.

Printed menus in coach

The first thing that caught my eye when we settled into our surprisingly-spacious coach seats was the "Flight Plan". I can't remember the last time I saw a printed menu in coach (Singapore Airlines, maybe?) and I don't think I've ever seen one on a domestic flight before. First service, second service...hospitality service (including complimentary Mai Tais!)...they took really good care of us. The second thing I noticed was that it seemed everything was branded somehow with a friendly reminder of where we were going- flowers on the napkins, island snack mix, "aloha mixed plate" lunches for sale, and even Kona Longboard as a beer choice. Even the Eskimo on the tail is wearing a lei, and except for the one flight attendant in the Seahawks jersey (Go Niners), the crew had on Hawaiian shirts.

About the Mai Tais...they're the same Trader Vics premixed ones that I gave United a hard time about earlier, but once you add a little POG (passion orange guava) which Alaska also serves, you've got yourself a pretty good drink! It really took me back to the days when we used to do that on Aloha Airlines. I figure as long as it's two colors, it's still a Mai Tai, and besides who am I to complain about a free drink. It was perfect.

Something special for the keikis

Aside from that, my kiddo got an "Aloha Hawaii" coloring book and a pack of crayons (which I intend to keep). At 11 months old, he's more into eating crayons than playing with them, but for sure there will be more flights on Alaska and more coloring books in the near future. I'm sure as he grows older this is something he'll look forward to, just like when I used to get my "wings". In a lot of ways Alaska reminds me of how United used to be. I have fond memories of flying the "Friendly Skies" to Hawaii as a kid. Sadly those days are gone now and my son will never get to share the same great experience I had, but for sure we can all look forward to making new memories (and status) together on our airline of choice for 2013 and beyond.

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