Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Northern Lights March 2013 - Alaska Airlines 182/88/328 Economy Class (FAI-ANC-SEA-SJC)

***This post is the conclusion to a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I left for the airport around 6:00 am and arrived while the sky was still pitch black. Returning the car to Alamo was a quick and easy process: simply park the car in the lot right in front of the terminal and drop off your keys inside at the rental car counter. With no baggage to check, I just had to reprint my boarding pass and head through the security screening, which was virtually empty.

Fairbanks Airport is small, but beautifully designed. Airside reminded me of a rustic ski lodge, with plenty of wood beams and hardwood floors. There were a couple of fast dining options just past security. After a brief wait at the gate, boarding commenced slightly early at 7:30 am. I could tell it would be a fairly empty flight going to Anchorage.

Alaska Airlines 182
Boeing 737-400
Fairbanks (FAI) - Anchorage (ANC)
Tuesday March 12, 2013
Departure: 8:00 AM (scheduled) / 7:57 AM (actual)
Arrival: 9:00 AM (scheduled) / 9:11 AM (actual)
Duration: 1h 0m (scheduled) / 1h 14m (actual)
Seat: 15A (Economy)

A hint of daylight was just starting to break the night sky as we departed from the gate. Outside, there was still a thin dusting of snow covering the tarmac. After we took off smoothly and gained altitude, I could see a dramatic sunrise coming over the eastern horizon. The colors were beautiful, especially paired with the icy tundra below.

The short one-hour hop was innocuous, and I slept virtually the entire way there. I believe there was one quick beverage service, but I slept through that as well. Unfortunately, as we began our descent into Anchorage International Airport, we hit some rough turbulence, and the aircraft was being knocked left and right up to the final touchdown.

With a layover of about two hours, I had plenty of time to grab some breakfast and take another short nap in the terminal. Boarding began early again, and it looked to be a light load on this flight as well.

Alaska Airlines 88
Boeing 737-800
Anchorage (ANC) - Seattle (SEA)
Tuesday March 12, 2013
Departure: 11:30 AM (scheduled) / 11:22 AM (actual)
Arrival: 3:50 PM (scheduled) / 3:36 PM (actual)
Duration: 3h 20m (scheduled) / 3h 14m (actual)
Seat: 10C (Economy)

Once seated, I noticed that the flight was only maybe 60-70% full. The middle seat in my row remained empty, and I had enough space to stretch out. I ended up conversing with the lady sitting at the window for most of the time. She told me how she spends every year volunteering at the Itidarod. I had heard about the race before, but never knew much about the details until this chat. It definitely sounded amazing, and I'd love to visit Nome one of these days to see the sleds cross the finish line.

On the way down to Seattle, there were some spectacular scenery, including glaciers and ice fields along the Alaskan Panhandle. Seeing the breathtaking landscape actually got me thinking about booking an Alaskan cruise in the future.

Service was impeccable on this flight. I'm usually impressed with Alaska Airline's flight attendants already, but the ones on this flight were so approachable and friendly that I had to make an extra mention of it. Small things like a warm smile, joking around with the passengers, and giving an entire can of soda and an extra pack of snacks just made the flight that much more enjoyable. Great job!

After a rather long three-plus hour flight, we landed smoothly in Seattle a couple of minutes early. I had yet another two-hour layover, but Sea-Tac had plenty of shops and restaurants to tide me over while I waited. With the time change, it was already late afternoon, and I grabbed a quick lunch at the central terminal while watching planes take off and land. At approximately 5:00 pm, I headed over to the departure gate for boarding.

Alaska Airlines 328
Boeing 737-400
Seattle (SEA) - San Jose (SJC)
Tuesday March 12, 2013
Departure: 5:30 PM (scheduled) / 5:27 PM (actual)
Arrival: 7:29 PM (scheduled) / 7:31 PM (actual)
Duration: 1h 59m (scheduled) / 2h 4m (actual)
Seat: 15A (Economy)

The flight to San Jose was uneventful, and I ended up sleeping most of the way down. Another friendly crew delivered the standard beverage and snack service, and we landed right on schedule. Truth be told, I've yet to have a bad experience with Alaska Airlines, and I'm glad to say the trend continued on my following trip to Kauai as well (report to follow).

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