The saddest first class flight on Alaska, Ever.

We’re putting this flight review out there as a PSA for those of you who are flying first class on Alaska or were considering doing so. Not all flights are created equal, so buyer beware!

Alaska operates more nonstop flights between Seattle and the Los Angeles area than anyone else. There are literally dozens of flights between Seattle and LAX, BUR, ONT, and SNA every single day. Service on these flights can vary greatly depending on the crew that you’ve been given and the time of day that you leave.

Alaska planes parked at the gate

Alaska planes parked at the gate

We received word that we had been upgraded to first class 5 days before the trip, as a benefit of our Gold 75k status. It’s a great perk, as no matter what class of fare you’re flying, you can get upgraded 5 days out depending on your status. To date, we haven’t missed a single upgrade.

We hung out in the lounge for a while, and headed to the gate with about 20 minutes to go before departure. Boarding was smooth and everything was getting off to a good start.

Once we took off the flight attendant came by and introduced herself and took drink orders.

Alaska Air Drinks, from AlaskaAir.com

Alaska Air Drinks, from AlaskaAir.com

This is usually the part where they let us know that they have some semblance of a chicken dish, and you can either choose to go with that or starve. Alaska offers no preordering of meals, no vegetarian options, no kosher, no diabetic meals, nothing. You get the food we give you and nothing else (much like a family dinner over Christmas with my extended family)

Same thing, with MEAT

Same thing, with MEAT

“Would you like a cookie?”
“I’m sorry?”
“Would you like a cookie”
“Sure, I suppose that’s a good dessert. I’ll have it after the meal.”
“No, that is the meal, we’re serving cookies tonight. Either that or pretzels.”
“What, no dinner?”
“Yea, we don’t serve dinner on these late flights.”
“But it’s 8 o’clock”
“Yup, so we have cookies”

It should be noted that no where (at least that I can find) on Alaska’s website does it say that they’re not going to serve meals past a certain hour, in fact, it’s quite the contrary.

alaska-first-class

Here’s a picture of the lovely pretzels and drinks

Alaska drink and pretzels

Alaska drink and pretzels

And here are the cookies that Ben was given. Honestly, it looks like the flight attendant got hungry before she gave them to Ben.

Nom nom! The flight attendant got to ours first :)

Nom nom! The flight attendant got to ours first 🙂

We asked if we could get a snack pack from the back, and the flight attendant told me that “if I was nice and asked nicely, then maybe the crew in the back would be so kind as to give us a snack pack to eat.”

Really? Like I’m in the 2nd grade and I have to ask to go potty? I have to ask nicely? (Stepping on my soapbox here). I’m a 75k gold member and a first class passenger, and I have to go all the way to the back to beg for some beef jerky? The least you could do is call back and ask if they could bring some forward (off soapbox).

So, I do go to the back and ask for some, mentioning that the first class flight attendant let me know that if there were some that were not purchased, that I could get one.

“Sure, which would you like?”

“I’ll take the snack pack.”

“Great, which card would you like to pay with?”

“None, the first class flight attendant told me to come back here and ask for a pack, since they aren’t serving food up front.”

“Yes, and that’ll be $6. You have to pay. What card would you like to use?”

I took the pack and headed back to my seat, where I had my credit card, obviously not thinking I would be needing it.

Mad TV's awesome skit

Mad TV’s awesome skit

I’m all for the airlines making a buck, but the idea that you’re not offering first class passengers a food option, and then when there is extra food in the back, you’re still demanding that they pay? That’s some BS. I’m sorry, but it is. If I was a paying first class customer, forking upwards of $300+ for a flight in first class and you gave me a cookie? I’d be livid, and rightfully so. ESPECIALLY since every other flight, for exactly the same amount of money, serves a full meal.

If this were a red eye 3am flight, I could perhaps understand it. But this is an 8pm flight heading down one of the most competitive routes there is on the west coast. The option to not offer food in first class is not an option, and it’s ridiculous.

When the flight attendant saw that I pulled out my phone and started going to the Alaska Listens survey on the app, her attitude changed and offered to make a “one time exception” in this instance.

Alaska Air Listens Survey

Alaska Air Listens Survey

Conversely, when we flew the 6:45pm flight back home (once again, an upgrade to first class, thank you Alaska), we got a meal. Here’s that meal for your comparison:

What a difference an hour makes...

What a difference an hour makes…

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Hey Alaska, I’m looking at you. You’ve got to stay competitive! Seattle loves its hometown airline, but in a world where Delta is offering free donuts just for showing up in a Top Pot and American/Virgin are offering competing routes with superior product, you can’t sit back idly and hope that paying first class customers are going to accept a crappy half eaten cookie.

There. Rant over. Thanks for sticking with us this long.

What are your thoughts? How would you have felt if you paid a premium of hundreds of dollars and got a cookie?

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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34 Comments

  1. “How would you have felt if you paid a premium of hundreds of dollars and got a cookie?”

    Except you didn’t, did you?

    Advance fares on SEA-LAX are $60 or so. Huh, so an MVPG75K will get a $60 seat in first class. And imagine that, it’s not a great product.

    Would you be fine if AS served good meals in first class if your upgrade rates went down a lot?

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    • While I appreciate your snarky comment, it’s invalid.

      Advance fares are $60, but Alaska doesn’t prioritize upgrades on advance fares anymore. They prioritize on price paid for tickets and go down from there. I have paid for first class on that route before, but once again, you’re missing the entire point of the post.

      Also, the upgrade rates are going down a lot now that they’re going to reduce the rows in first class to 3 from 4, and introduce the Premium Econ product.

      I’d love to talk to you more about Alaska and upgrades in general, but since you’re more focused on being an annoyance, and providing an email of coward@coward.com, not much I can do to help change that situation.

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  2. How does it feel to be “that guy”?

    A 75K certainly knows that snack boxes are chargeable to F passengers. It’s been that way for a while now.

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    • I know, right? I became “that guy,” but mostly because of the inconsistency. The policy, according to the MVP customer service and many flight attendants is “coach class must be served, and then if there are any left over, we are happy to provide them to you at no charge.” But they need a chance to sell it first. Since I gave them that chance, and they still wanted to charge, therein lies a problem.

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      • The offer of free food from coach after everyone has had a chance to to purchase a meal only applies to the hot daily special, and the fresh fruit and cheese plate. It does not apply to any of the snack boxes or the beef jerky. They are shelf stable items.

        And, Alaska Sends out reminders on the comping guidelines regularly to the frequent flyer customers. The guidelines are clearly layed out.

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        • As 75k members I can tell you that this policy has never been sent out as a reminder to either of us.

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    • As 75K, we’re very well aware of the policy, in fact we’ve written a few times about it both here and to corporate, as it is one of the most disappointing experiences with Alaska when compared to other airlines in premium cabins. And that’s exactly the point that’s being missed here.

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  3. I see your points, but the reality is that this is what was offered on that flight, that day. It’s not like they didn’t give you what they gave others or something.

    The de facto demanding of free other food was out of line and I am embarrassed for you. In my view, that is very entitled and bratty maneuver that is out of line for a person of your level of savvy. You basically asked the airline for a gift and essentially threatened the flight attendant with “telling on them” (to leverage your second grade theme above) if you did not get your way.

    I guess I am happy you got what you demanded but I agree, you were certainly “that guy”.

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    • Let me clarify a few points that you didn’t capture from the post.

      First, I didn’t demand the free food. The flight attendant told me to go to the back to get a snack pack, because she was apologetic about not having a service on board.

      Second, I didn’t “tattle tale” on anyone, nor did I say that I did. I simply wrote to Alaska Listens that I thought that a first class flight on a competitive route should have a meal service. Not that any one person in particular was bad. I don’t know where you got that idea, it’s completely invented.

      Third, hopefully, someone reading this post can figure out that if you’re taking an 8pm flight, either feed yourself or know what to expect. As you can see, the time of day makes the difference. I’m sad that you invented a story in your head about what happened. You make it seem as if I was stopming my feet in the galley, crying for free food. Obviously I didn’t do that.

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      • I am so sorry I got so many facts wrong and I appreciate your diligence in raising that for me. I guess it’s all about how a reader perceives the writer’s story. Enjoy your travels and any holidays you might celebrate this month.

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  4. Ok. I have a number of F flights with Alaska next month and this concerns me. I’ve never encountered this with AA or VX while flying with them, and this doesn’t sound too promising.

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    • Thanks Collin – it seems to be an issue with the early and late flights. On almost every flight, NO matter the distance, a meal service was offered. What time are your flights?

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  5. I love all the obsessive Alaska fanboys. I’m MVP Gold and I like Alaska, but I don’t LOVE it. There are much better products out there and I really agree with you and hope that Alaska improves its soft product going forward.

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  6. I noticed all Seatle to L.A. area flights 7:59pm and before get a meal. 8pm seems to be the cutoff. I did see that the 9:15pm SEA-MCO gets a snack. I’m assuming AS uses some combination of time AND distance to determine meal availability. It doesn’t seem like their website actually gives the criteria, which is somewhat dumb.

    You can check if your flight has a meal by doing a dummy booking in F and checking the “details”. Expertflyer also shows this info if you have a subscription.

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    • I think that MCO flight is a snack because it’s an overnight maybe? I think that’s pretty standard across all flights. I’m with you on the website not spelling it out. You think that would be helpful, no? LOL

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  7. While the big three also have cut off times for meal service, I do agree that one issue that AS has is that it does not indicate, when you book flights, what meal service will be available in F. (For example, AA will always specify between “Breakfast”, “Lunch”, “Dinner” and “Refreshments”, the last one being most similar to what you received on AS)

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    • Someone told me that in the APP you can see it, but it doesn’t always equate. On my Emirates First Class booking, it says “no meal served” HAHAHA

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  8. As MVP 75k’s…the fact you aren’t well versed in checking https://www.alaskaair.com/schedule for meal info baffles me. Did you status match to it or is it bis miles?

    Anywhoo, looks like your flight was the 8:45pm departure, which does not even get a snack. Honestly, this isn’t surprising, and in line with other carriers. Also, I believe the policy is only for food from the back on flights where a meal doesn’t fit your dietary preferences. In this case, no meal offered, so I don’t see why you should have been offered it for free. Also, if its not a written policy, don’t expect even enforcement (and if it is, I’d love to see where it is published) I’m no expert, though I did commute to SEA from the midwest weekly this year on AS, almost always in paid first class.

    I honestly don’t understand your indignation at this, mountain out of a molehill and all that. You didn’t look up beforehand what your flight was serving, which you had plenty of time to do. You didn’t ask the desk agent or lounge agent before boarding, which you had plenty of time to do. Then, once on board, your threatened a flight attendant with a bad survey to get your way. There’s a bit of personal responsibility missing from your post here.

    I’d venture a guess you wrote about it here rather than on the Alaska boards on FT since you’d be likely (and rightly) skewered.

    Post a Reply
    • 1) It’s BIS miles, over 110,000 this year alone, so I think I do have a bit of knowledge on the matter.

      2) All first class always gets a snack, no matter the time of day or distance, with the exception of Horizon short-haul.

      3) Dietary preferences don’t matter on Alaska. Even if you say that you’re a vegetarian or can’t eat the options, the policy stands about charging you. It’s been that way since I think about February (after they tried rolling out their new program. They might take the chicken off of the salad for you, but you want something else you still have to pay if coach hasn’t been given the once over yet.

      4) Where do you read that I threatened anyone? You’re exaggerating, and you missed something on the post for sure. As you can see I took the pack and headed back for my credit card, implying that I was going to pay. I see you missed that part. Once I got back to my seat, I started filling out the Alaska Listens and told them of my disapproval, which I am sure you can agree is the right way to go about it.

      I think everyone can agree that Alaska needs to provide meal options, and if not, communicate them better, just like all other carriers. I hope now that they’ve merged with Virgin things will look up and they will have to improve to compete.

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      • 2. Well, there’s a snack and then there’s the official “snack” on AS. Their official snack options are often just as if not more substantial than their meals offered. What you got was not the official “snack.”

        4. Pulling out your phone, where the flight attendant could see it, while filling out the survey, is a clear “threat” that bad remarks are being entered. For these front line employees, anything less than perfect scores on surveys and customer complaints and such means they end up in front of management. I’ve filled out my fair share of complaints, and may have even complained myself after a flight like yours where I felt they were lacking in communication, but I wouldn’t dare use it as a threat to get my way.

        I agree they could do a better job communicating it (whether via app or boarding pass), but if you were buying a first class seat on the route, you’d see as you were buying it under “details” what sort of meal, if any, was being offered. Or, like I said, they post it all very clearly on the schedules page.

        The only reason they even offer meals on some of the west coast flights is because all the airlines do it. The 8:45PM is the latest flight non-stop to LAX, they have no competition, so likely have no reason to offer a meal at that time.

        I’ve enjoyed some of your guys’ other writing, I feel flyers such as yourselves should have never been in this situation to begin with. I feel this post could be far better serving as a “How-to” find out if your AS flight has meals offered, rather than “The saddest flight on Alaska. Ever” (Might want to read about AS 261, that might be the saddest Alaska Flight. Ever.) Best of luck.

        Post a Reply
        • Thanks for the comment about our other writing. Couple points and then we can move on 🙂 Again, I went back to my seat to get my credit card. And then I filled out the survey. Calling that a threat is a step too far. You’re right that the front line employees take the brunt of this, but at the same point, you didn’t ask me what I wrote in the survey. If you did, I’d have told you that while the service was great, they are being hampered by a silly and archaic rule that needs to be revisited in today’s competitive marketplace. You hit it on the head, they offer dinner because others do. And I hope that they’ll continue to improve. Alaska has my business for sure!

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    • I am sitting in FC as we speak, and Alaska does offer coach snack meals for purchase, and I don’t mind doing that, but you are correct in saying that you must wait to see if one is available to purchase! We are in first class, I would happily pay for a meal for my daughter, but am told I can’t get one. We are on the sea to lax flight. My bad for not knowing the disadvantage of flighing FC.

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  9. UA also don’t serve dinner in F after 8. It’s ridiculous in my view- you have a full day in the office, leave at 6, struggle through rush hour traffic to drop the car at the airport, reach TSA at 7 and you don’t have time for dinner before your flight.

    Post a Reply
    • I’m right there with you 100%. That was exactly our situation.

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  10. I’m an American Airlines traveler not an Alaska Airlines traveler so I’m comparing your issue to the airline that I know. American wouldn’t have served you a meal either. You don’t get a meal domestically after 8pm. They’re good at communicating it, however, which seems to be your most valid complaint.

    See – http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/american-airlines-aadvantage/1735771-2016-combined-aa-domestic-meal-meals-menu-photos-etc-master-thread.html

    It would also have been noted on the GID screen that you weren’t getting anything but a “snack” on AA and it would’ve been reflected in the reservation too. I don’t know whether Alaska does that as well. If they don’t; perhaps they should.

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    • Good post to know on FT. I’ll bookmark it, and I hope others do as well. From what I can remember (I think) Alaska shows that you’re upgraded but still shows the economy option (food for purchase) in the app. I’ll double check it when my next upgrade clears. ALSO, I have a paid flight on January 5. It’s over 2,000 miles and the meal says “No Meal Available” … which I think we both know that on a 5 hour flight in the daytime, there WILL be a meal service.

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  11. I fully sympathize with you. The standards are pathetic on US carriers; and that includes Alaska. The saddest thing is that some passengers condone this state of affairs and accept the status-quo. When flying internationally, that’s why I always try to book on foreign carriers. Vote with the wallet.

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  12. When in F, a meal is a reasonable expectation for a flight that lasts shy of 3 hours.
    Cost of fare – irrelevant. Free upgrade – irrelevant.

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    • Our points exactly! Particularly when all other competitors for that route and comparable service do offer it, and especially when the exact same flights that run for the same price also include a meal! Thanks for the comment, Veejay!

      Post a Reply
  13. well as the saying goes ” you only get what you pay for” Having said as I finish the year with 122K I can only hope AS follows the Virgin way of inflight service. And I do pay for my seat but with the understanding that AS is the least likely airline to serve an edible meal

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  14. I don’t know if I’m more surprised at the lack of a decent snack on a 2 1/2 hour flight in F or how much food they served on the other one of the same distance. I would have expected a small meal like a cold sandwich or snack pack in F.

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  15. I often find posts about FC coming up short not entirely sympathetic, but this experience really missed the mark.

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  16. Why not just give F class a snack box if they request it? Seems very simple to do. I don’t understand why all these people are complaining one way or another.

    Post a Reply
  17. Interesting, I agree it should be on the website if there is not a meal when there normally is one offered.

    Post a Reply

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