Overheard on my Alaska Airlines flight this morning

I love Alaska Airlines, and it’s no secret. We’re fanboys of the airline for sure. Living in Seattle it makes it quite easy to hop on flights to wherever we need to get to, and their customer service is second to none. The miles that we earn have a ton of flexibility and they are currently the only US airline to give you a mile for every mile flown. That last point alone is enough to make sure that Alaska earns our travel dollars.

Pre Meal Crater Lake... mmm...

Pre Meal Crater Lake… mmm…

But I did overhear something today on my flight that made me chuckle a little bit, even if it’s not so much about Alaska Airlines as it is a commentary about the airline industry in the US in general.

We’re flying this morning from Seattle to Denver and our upgrades to first cleared at the last minute. We couldn’t switch seats because neither of the people sitting next to us wanted to move. That’s fine, that’s their right, and I’ve been that guy before that doesn’t switch seats so I can’t really complain. We are happy that we got an upgrade and love Alaska for it.

Yea, no leg room when you recline!

Yea, no leg room when you recline!

The flight is “short” at around 2 hours and 45 minutes, but certainly not THAT short of a flight. Flights to Portland or Vancouver clock at 45 minutes or less, and there are certainly flights that are much longer and even shorter than that!

It’s 11:04 AM as I write this and our flight took off at 10:16 AM (so that’s 48 minutes into the flight). I just got my drink order (I’m sitting in row 1, bulkhead). Once the drinks were distributed to us, the flight attendant went back to the galley to get the drinks for row two. As she passes back through and leans over into row 2 I hear her the following conversation:

FA: I’ve gone ahead and given you an extra bottle of vodka just in case.
2F: Thank you, but in case of what?
FA: In case I can’t get back to you in a decent amount of time to get a second drink service.
2F: Really? I would assume that there would be plenty of time to do a second drink service on this long of a flight.
FA: Oh no, it’s such a short flight that getting in two drink services will be difficult… we want to make sure that we can get it all done in an efficient manner.

Wait, what? Seriously? Now just hold up one minute. This is a two hour and forty-five minute flight. Take into account 20 minutes up and 20 minutes down, that’s 2 hours for service. We’re already 48 minutes into the flight and I got my drink. Exactly how long does it take to pour drinks?

Again, I don’t see this as a commentary on Alaska per say, but more as a general commentary on US airline service in general.

We posted a few months back about how we love flying on the Big Three mid-east carriers as often as possible, because they know how to give great service. The same can be said for Garuda Indonesia, Virgin Australia, Korean Air, and other non-US airlines. Shoot, even Aerolineas Argentinas has a full service on their flights.

The mentality that doing a double drink service on a flight of almost three hours is difficult is just ludicrous. I know that it seems nowadays that US based airlines don’t have to compete, but in reality they do. Delta is now encroaching into Alaska’s territory and is trying to compete. Alaska just purchased Virgin who is known for a higher level of service, so they’ll have to woo over those fliers. It’s all changing bit by bit, and I hope soon to see that the mindset of the US airlines will also change to reflect a higher level of service.

Alaska Air Drinks, from AlaskaAir.com

Alaska Air Drinks, from AlaskaAir.com

What do you think? Will the US carriers still be caught in the past or will they step it up and improve as time goes on? Have you experienced good/bad service in any first class product recently?

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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  1. The few times I have flown US carriers, I have found the service shocking. Paying for drinks as well is pretty unheard of in Europe unless you are flying a LCC (although BA are about to break that mould!). This really doesn’t surprise me at all!

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  2. Great article. The service in the US carriers is just terrible. Most of the people have been working for many years. Their jobs are protected by the unions and they have no reason to work hard because they cannot be fired. They do the bare minimum to get by and even though they always smile, it’s hard to hide their inner rudeness and contempt for the flier. Once I asked for a refill on my water and was told to bring my own bottle next time.

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    • That was on Alaska as well or another airline?

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  3. First Class service on Alaska is a joke. They take for ever on refills if they give them, and all but one time, right after being served my meal (I always sit in the bulkhead) I ask for a refill to go with my meal and I’m told to wait until everybody is served their meal. WTF? I need to ration my drink for my meal? I agree that US airline service is lacking, but I’ve received better service in 1st class on United, Delta, and American than on Alaska every time. Good luck to them trying to retain Virgin America customers.

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  4. Let’s see…you have round 1 drinks for 16 people…you have the excuse me can I also have a glass of water…then you have to prepare, plate, and serve the meals. Feeding the pilots and bathroom breaks for the flight deck. Garbage clean up…oh and bumps in and out of cities such as Denver. Things add up.

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    • Two and a half hours is more than enough to do that. There really was no plating of the meals, since it was a fruit and cheese plate. And if we’re being honest, there was a good hour that nothing happened. So on a 90 minute flight, sure, but on this long of a flight? No way… plenty of time to do it all.

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  5. On Qantas Domestic Business Class during a 2 hours flight you get a delicious 3 course meal with as many drinks as you want. Event in economy they’d do a free meal & free wine or beer. On a four hour flight e.g. Sydney to Perth they have full sleeper beds in Business. The American carriers are dreadful by comparison

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  6. On 5 out of my last 6 sea PDX flights, no service whatsoever. 2 of this flights had turbulence, so still a good 50% were just not bothered

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    • That kinda sucks 🙁

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