Alaska Airlines traces its origins to the establishment of McGee Airways in 1932. The small company changed hands several times and merged with other carriers to become Alaska Airlines in 1944. In 1951 the airline began services to Seattle and Portland and made history by becoming America’s first airline to provide in-flight movies in 1955. During the 1960’s Alaska Airlines introduced Boeing 727’s which became the backbone of the airline’s fleet for 25 years. In 1970 the airline began charter flights to Russia but in 1971 its reputation suffered when a Juneau flight crashed becoming the US’s worst airline accident. In 1973 the airline adopted the ‘smiling eskimo’ as its emblem and 1978 supported aviation deregulation which allowed the carrier to expand across continental USA. In 1985 ownership of the airline was vested in Alaska Air Group which later acquired Horizon Air as well and the head office was relocated to Seattle. In 1995 Alaska Airlines took advantage of the ‘open skies’ agreement with Canada launching new routes and later commencing flights to Mexico. Alaska Airline prides itself on having the best reputation for inflight service for any US airline. An oddity about the airline is the Christian Psalm card placed on each meal tray.
The interior designs of Alaska Airlines is quite boring and crew are dressed in a conservative dark uniform. Flight attendants tend to be older and experienced rather than young and bubbly. Service is reminiscent of by-gone years and is nothing to write home about, however is nothing to complain about either.
Alaska Airlines and its subsidary airline, Horizon Air, which provides feeder flights into Alaska’s network is dominant in the US’s northwest. The airline essentially links Alaska, Washington and Oregon to the rest of the US, western Canada and Mexico. Alaska Airlines has also codeshares with numerous international carriers as diverse as Fiji’s Air Pacific to backpack favorite Icelandair.
Airline travel in the US is highly competitive and quality airlines like Alaska Airlines are forced to match the fares of dodgier rivals like Southwest. Airfares are likely to be higher on Alaska Airlines however the onboard experience will be better and in the event of a mishap like lost baggage or misconnecting flights this airline will provide real help rather than a brush-off. If something does go wrong you'll be pleased you're booked with Alaska Airlines.
Alaska Airlines provides free catering for First Class while passengers in Economy can purchase from their Northern Bites onboard menu. The airline serves Starbuck’s coffee in both classes and the menu favors local quality cuisine. Hawaiian flights have a separate tropical menu to put holiday makers in the mood. Generally the quality of airline cuisine on US carriers is globally amongst the worst, but Alaska Airlines manages to rise above awful to qualify as average. Despite an attempt to include healthier options, most of Alaska Airline’s menu consists of high fat and high sugar snack-type foods. Meal trays come with collectable Psalm Cards which are inspiring Biblical quotes printed with wildlife landscapes.
Alaska Airlines flights have rentable digEplayer’s available for $8 per flight. Essentially they are portable DVD players with the airline stocking a range of current and classic Hollywood movies, TV shows and infotainment options. The airline’s ‘Alaska Airlines Magazine’ is packed with tourist related feel-good stories about America’s northwest or destinations the airline flies to.
Alaska Airlines has an efficient check-in procedure. The airline’s website has on-line check-in and at larger airports Alaska Airlines has self-check kiosks which are convenient for passengers without luggage. US carriers have a terrible reputation for handling baggage, so while Alaska Airlines may endeavor to look after passenger baggage, third party contractors often don’t care. Travel Insurance is a good idea, but if something does go wrong Alaska Airline’s staff will help rather than vanish.
Alaska Airline’s First Class may come as a surprise for first time premium travelers who are expecting luxury. The airline essentially provides larger seats, priority luggage tags and passenger boarding and an improved quality of catering and that is about it. The airline operates five of its own lounges which it calls Board Room's which are pleasantly appointed café style waiting rooms. Free self-service catering, including a pancake maker is available while sofa areas can be quite crowded especially at peak times.
Alaska Airline strives to provide a better flying experience than their rivals and generally achieves this, however standards on practically all airlines are deteriorating rather than improving. Cheaper fares are sustained by cutting services and even Alaska Airlines needs to trim here and there. Coach class passengers receive a standard baggage allowance, satisfactory service, pay a reasonable price and can buy convenience store type food at convenience store prices during their flight. Going from A to B in Coach on Alaska Airlines promises to be pretty all round average experience.
Alaska Airlines is not a member of any of the world’s giant airline groupings, yet their Mileage Plan loyalty scheme is linked to many of the world’s great airlines so a membership card is surprising useful. Miles can be earned on Alaska Airlines flights and can also be used on 15 other airlines, including the world’s best carrier, Emirates and quality Asian carriers Korean Air, Cathay Pacific and many others. An Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan card can be used extensively in the US with American Airlines, Delta and three smaller regional airlines. Points are easy to redeem for upgrades if available and off peak flights. A membership card can also be used to earn points on Hotels, financial services and other providers.
Compared to their unethical rivals who occupy corporate positions in other carriers, Alaska Airlines managers are saints. Perhaps that’s why they put Psalm Card on the meal trays. Alaska Airlines portrays an image of environment awareness and supports charitable causes. While most airlines do the same, Alaska Airlines actually practices what it preaches rather than just saying it. The airline has had bad publicity over its many accidents so the airline has tried hard to fix its image but changing its attitude.
Alaska Airlines has had numerous accidents in its long history, the most recent being in 2000 which resulted in 88 deaths; caused ultimately by a budget cut in their maintenance department. The airline operates aircraft as long as they can get value out of them and due to financial pressures they fly older planes. Alaska Airline’s maintenance services are exposed to the same cost-cutting attention as other areas of the business which ultimately place passengers in some risk. However, this is the norm for practically ever US carrier. Since 2000 the airline has paid more attention to safety and has not experienced any major incident.
Alaska Airlines has a reputation for being the US’s best domestic airline because it offers better service and is more ‘genuine’.
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