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