Review: Alaska Airlines First Class B737-9, Vancouver – Seattle


Getting up early in the morning on family travel is never a fun experience. With our Alaska Airlines flight to Hawaii, we would have to make a double connection in Seattle and Portland prior to getting down to Maui, Hawaii, USA. We would start the day at 2:30 AM in order to make our 6:02 AM departure time. While it was an early departure, it actually ended up being alright thanks to a surprise last minute operational upgrade to First Class.

This post is one chapter on our trip to Kaanapali, Maui, Hawaii, United States of America. This trip was redeemed through Alaska Mileage Plan on a 2 for 1 Companion Fare and enhanced through Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Alaska Airlines First Class B737-9, Vancouver International Airport – Seattle Tacoma International Airport

Getting to Vancouver International Airport:

We all had to be up at 2:30 AM in the morning to get out the front door of the house for the 6 AM flight today. When I went to get him up our of bed, son was really groggy and wanted some “iPhone time” to get up slowly. Oh boy. This is what family traveling has come to; not likely 13 year old!! We tossed him in the car and away we went.

We sped in the car to the jet set long term parking at Vancouver International Airport. I made an advance booking via the Vancouver International Airport webpage and got a discount with the BC Automobile Association card. We took the parking lot shuttle bus and arrived to the dark airport building at 4:00 AM. We wheeled into the Alaska gates immediately under the Fairmont Vancouver Airport.

Arriving to Alaska Airlines Check In at 4 AM
It was Surprisingly Busy at this Early Hour

As family travel trips go, they are never completely organized. I tried but we couldn’t check in on line as the previous administration had turned over son’s passport after their summer trip, only for me to discover the night before departure that it only had 3 months of validity left on it prior to expiration. I attempted on line check in but the Alaska computer would not accept the expiration date – claiming the document was expired and not valid for travel. I spent the evening of the night before searching to see if we would be denied boarding via a government or Alaska policy since you usually need 6 months left on the document. However, on arrival to the counter, all was okay at the Alaska check in desk and they never even mentioned it. Thank the heavens for small miracles amid modern day parenting issues.

MrsWT73 was pre-upgraded at the 48 hr mark to the First Class cabin courtesy of her Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold status. Her Alaska Airlines MVP Gold status offered her unlimited First Class upgrades. As a lowest tier Alaska Mileage Plan MVP, I wasn’t even considered since Alaska doesn’t extend traveling companion elite upgrades for non status passengers like my son.

We headed through to the secure side and US Customs Pre-Clearance in Vancouver. CASTA Security and Global Entry were a total mess today. It was the worst than I had ever seen it. There were easily over 100 people in the GE line. The line extended past the kiosks and finally got organized around 4:50 AM. That’s us in the Trusted Traveler lane on the left – so much for expedited screening.

Waiting in the Trusted Traveller Line on the Left
Waiting in the US Pre-Clearance Global Entry / Nexus Lines

I later learned CASTA screening only opens at 4:30 AM and CBP opening with light staff. Many travellers were delayed thanks to about 200 people in the regular line. It was a challenging airport situation to start the day’s travels. Despite this, we made it through CBP without any issue. The whole process from check in to gate was ell over 60 minutes with fast track check in, nexus security screening and global entry. The lesson to be learned that if you’re a regular traveler leaving Vancouver in the early morning, plan to come early as a result of the extra time needed.

We headed over to Gate 73, which is a sterile transit gate at Vancouver International Airport. The last time we headed out this gate, it was the gate for our Cathay Pacific First Class Vancouver – New York flight a few years back. The indoor ferns were not as lush on our last trip through…

Headed to Gate 73
Our Sterile Transit Area at Gate 73
Our Alaska Airlines B737-9 at the Gate in Vancouver
Our Gate Staff Working the Podium

While we were waiting at the gate, I was called to the podium. Thankfully due to my Alaska Mileage Plan MVP status, myself and the son received an operational upgrade to First Class. The friendly gate agent cautioned me and said “usually we don’t do this but we have people we want to fit on in the back”. Alaska doesn’t normally upgrade non status passengers along with the MVP’s but son who had no status was without status was on the same ticket as I.

Alaska Airlines
First Class (U)
YVR-SEA (Vancouver International Airport – SeaTac Airport)
AS 964
August 18, 2017
Booked: Boeing 737-900
Flown: Boeing 737-900
Departure: 06:02 AM
Arrival: 6:47 AM

On Board Alaska Airlines First Class:

We boarded with the earlier groups and settled into the First Class Cabin. The Alaska Airlines First Class cabin is pretty retro-looking, but despite the look of the cabin, it’s a pretty comfortable place to be. It’s set up in a 2 – 2 configuration over four rows of First Class.

On Board Alaska Airlines First Class
Alaska Airlines First Class Cabin
Our Seats 4A and 4C in First Class
Ample Leg Room in First Class

Pre – Departure Services:

On board, there was the usual Alaska form of a pre-departure beverage consisting of a small bottle of Dasani water. We were also offered a bonus pre – departure beverage of orange juice or coffee, which seems to be unusual for the Vancouver – Seattle route. Usually, nothing is offered for some reason or another.

A Pre-Departure Dasani Water
A Pre Departure Orange Juice

As we got underway, there was no other in flight service on the short 27 minute flight down to Seattle.

We had a long taxi out to runway 26 L made longer by construction to runways. We had a smooth take off with some gorgeous sunrise views over mount baker.

WT73 Jr checking out the Take Off Views
Beautiful Views of Mount Baker at Sunrise
Morning Light on the Horizon

We arrived into Seattle and were parked at the N Gates in the North Terminal before we knew it, arriving at 7 AM.

Arriving to the N Concourse in Seattle Tacoma International Airport

On arrival, we took the train over to the main terminal. We went and looked at the options for breakfast in the food fair at the central concourse. There wasn’t much there that was appealing for breakfast, but we enjoyed the beautiful picture window.

The Seattle Tacoma Departure Concourse Window

We ended coming back to an overpriced Wolfgang Puck Restaurant in the C Concourse but very tasty with reasonably fresh artisan bread.

I went and looked at the Sub Pop store just off the C wing. Sub Pop is famous in the Seattle scene as the founding indie record label for Nirvana, Soundgarden and Mudhoney. It’s now backing Flight of the Concords among other bands. It was a cool piece of airport tenant trivia for all passengers traveling through Seattle.

Checking Out Seattle Tacomas’ Sub Pop

The Bottom Line:

The Alaska Airlines First Class flight is probably among the most common flight that we find ourselves on. We don’t get a lot of service on the flight thanks to the short duration, but it’s usually over before we know it. Today’s flight was marked by a operational upgrade to First Class; something that doesn’t happen all to often.

When was your last operational upgrade to First or Business Class ?

4 Comments on “Review: Alaska Airlines First Class B737-9, Vancouver – Seattle

  1. I am also in YVR and it’s extremely helpful to learn your planning and booking process, thank you. Did you fly alaska because of your wife’s status? It does extend the trip by another 3-4 hours depending on schedule. Guess this trip was a few years ago? Both AC and WJ now offer lie flat and you can use WJ companion for PE.


    • We seem to strike a balance between accumulating in Air Canada Aeroplan and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan so we can diversity between Star Alliance and (now One World) Alaska Mileage Plan have previously offered really strong valued reward redemptions. Being able to redeem 70,000 points for Qantas First Class North America – Australia was (is) an exceptional deal. Both programs offer a credit card in Canada, which allows for the accumulation of points through credit card spend.

      While the RBC Westjet Visa offers that terrific $99 companion fare, the fact that Westjet doesn’t have a frequent flier program makes it pretty much a non starter for us. There could be some value there depending on your travel patterns within Canada.

      While we never look forward to a connection in Seattle (or otherwise), it typically outweighs a substantial savings over non stop travel. Unless travelling for business, I typically take the approach that the entire day of travel is a write off. A few extra hours there for North American travel isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for us.

      Thanks for reading.


      • I agree that Alaska has some of the best redemptions although I haven’t had any success finding Qantas availability. I am praying that Japan, Australia, and Singapore opens up so I can use up my 600k points before the inevitable devaluation 😂 Their recent partners redemption rate were atrocious.


      • My last Alaska QF redemption was in summer (Australia’s Winter) of 2019. Unfortunately, I do fear the new Alaska rates with Qatar and Royal Air Maroc are a sign of things to come. Still there is some value in the Qatar rates if you can find saver availability; more so for the further away destinations.

        Happy travels!


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