My Experience With Alaska Beyond

Happy holidays, everyone!

As many of you know, I’m OMAAT’s in-house Delta apologist. I think Delta offers an incredibly reliable operation with superior hard product and soft product and generally excellent recognition of its top-level elite members. The threshold may be low, but in my experience it’s miles (heh) more enjoyable than United or American. And Delta’s food has always stood out as generally superior for a domestic operation.

Last April, OMAAT’s Seattle correspondent Alex wrote about Alaska’s new “Alaska Beyond”-branded soft product, which is the airline’s attempt to distinguish itself from mainstream competition (and mostly Delta, its Seattle competitor).

I had to fly from L.A. to Washington, D.C. this week for the holidays, which always leads to a bit of a quandary for me. Even though LAX is a Delta “hub” (to the extent LAX is any airline’s “hub,” which is to say marginally so but never dependably so), the market between Southern California and the Nation’s Capital is notably not served by Delta. Alaska, however, flies nonstop to L.A. and credits to Delta SkyMiles. More interestingly, a paid ticket in first class on Alaska — which, to D.C., is fairly reasonable since it’s a very competitive market — earns 200% MQMs on Delta, which is better than a paid First ticket on Delta metal, which only earns 150%. 😉

Anyway, my expectations were lowered (I’ve flown Alaska in First before and I think those of us who have flown Alaska can all agree it’s fine 😐 ) and I didn’t plan on a trip report for this trip, so consider this to be a post only written because I found something to be extraordinary:

Alaska Beyond, at least on this flight, served amazing food. The best I’ve ever had domestically, at least on a route that’s not between JFK and LAX or SFO.

They distribute menus (which they then collect, and collected before I knew I wanted to write about Alaska Beyond, so forgive the absence of a photo).

They serve a generous salad course that’s the best salad I’ve had on a plane, anywhere: a kale salad with toasted pine nuts and parmesan. On any other airline, it would have been hearty enough to be a first class lunch. (Again, I wasn’t going into this flight with a trip report in mind, so I sadly lack photographic evidence.)

But then they brought out the main — my choices were chicken or Alaskan cod, and I went with the dish that had the airline’s name in the description, which is always a good choice. 😉 (Note: can’t vouch for the french fries on Air France.)

Wow.

You guys, this cod was seriously terrific. Gastropub-quality. As Ben might say, “sinfully delicious,” but light at the same time.

Alaskan Cod, trumpet mushrooms and potatoes in Alaska First
Alaskan Cod, trumpet mushrooms and potatoes in Alaska First

The cod was doused in a lemon herb cream sauce that wasn’t remotely overwhelming. The herbed potatoes were delicious, and the sauteed trumpet mushrooms were outstanding.

And then after that, dessert was brought out as a third course — it was creme brulee in a ramekin and it was really delicious.

Look, I realize our expectations are low here. Singapore or Cathay serve wildly better meals on far shorter flights. But for domestic first on a non-premium route, I have to say Alaska blew me away with a gourmet three-course plated meal.

My flight was delightful overall, and while the food was something to literally write home about, I didn’t particularly think the seats were comfortable (they felt especially cramped for domestic first), I thought service was about average, and I actually thought the Wifi was positively shameful. When it worked — which was intermittently — the speeds were 1993-era.

You guys, 0.28 Mbps is REALLY slow
You guys, 0.28 Mbps is REALLY slow

It really made any productive work impossible, which was a shame since Gogo was charging $33.95 for the duration of the flight — a charge I will be vigorously disputing.

Bottom Line

I guess the reason I’m writing this post, other than that it’s been a while and I wanted to chime in during the busy holiday travel season and say hello, is:

Alaska Beyond is a bit more than a marketing gimmick. I thought the food and beverage service was a notch — hell, three notches — above every other domestic first route I’ve experienced other than the premium JFK-California routes.

It may not seem to be, but that’s kind of a big deal. It will certainly make me consider flying Alaska again in the future, at least so long as I can credit my MQMs to Delta — but if this catches on, it could really up the game in domestic catering across all the carriers, and not just on the super-premium routes.

Anyway, kudos to Alaska.

And the happiest of holidays to all!

Comments

  1. Great writeup, thank you.

    Alaska’s chairs in 1st suck out loud. But if you want to fly between National Airport and LAX they’re the best game in town. Sounds like their food has improved, too!

    This is good news.

    Question: Do they still use those clunky personal movie players?

  2. @TravelinWilly – Alaska has done away with the clunky old Digeplayers and moved to an 8″ tablet manufactured by Toshiba. It’s much thinner and lighter….a big improvement.

  3. Additionaly, they stream current release movies and entertainment (some free, some paid) from an onboard server, so you can bring your own device if you like, and you don’t need to pay for a GoGo In flight session to use it.

  4. The other notable element on Alaska first class is the wine. The current offering – Browne Vineyards Cab is worth $30 a bottle. Impressive for a first class domestic flight!

    I agree that the seat leaves a lot to be desired tho.

  5. Alaska’s Gogo continues to get worse. I’ve stopped complaining to Gogo because they say there are X number of users and it slows down the system. Gogo used to care but it seems like they don’t anymore. I hope AS would hurry up and get faster wifi.

  6. Call me a noob, but I can never figure out how to order another airlines ticket through delta for the MQM and miles.

    Do I need to call? Or is there a secret bat link that I can find and purchase other airline tickets through?

    Merry Christmas.

  7. @Daniel–just buy the tickets as you normally would. Add your DL FF number at any point before the flight to get credit to your DL account.

  8. I can’t wait for their new FC hard product (which means more pitch, basically). I was stuck in 1F for 4 hours, and being 6’6″, I did the whole feet way up on the bulkhead carpet move just to stay sane.

  9. .28mbps is almost 10 times the internet speed you could get in 1993 (=280kbps vs 34kbps modems). It’s more like home DSL circa 2000.

  10. French fries are Belgian, not of French origin, so that would be on Brussels Air. The origin of the term Frnech Fries is disputed (not disputed that they come from Belgium just how they got the French Fry moniker in English). I think the best theory is that so many US service men served in Belgium in WW I where they ate “frites” and the language they heard was French (which was the official language of Belgium until 1930) currently Frnech, Flemish (southern Dutch) and even German (since Belgium got a sliver of Germany as part of WW II and has 150,000+ German native speakers now)

  11. Pardon my ignorance…..but how do you earn 200% MQM on this route? DCA is my primary airport and this would be a HUGE help. Just made Diamond for the first time and thinking about 2016 requalification…

  12. Thanks @Gaurav. I was under the impression it had to be Delta ticketed 006 to count toward anything. Perhaps this is different because of the partnership (while it lasts). Thank you!

    Daniel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *