Review: Alaska Airlines First Class B737-8, Seattle – Honolulu


Alaska Airlines offers among the most frequencies of service from the mainland United States to the Islands of Hawaii. When they do, it’s exclusively on their Boeing 737 narrow body aircraft. This means that First Class travel is on a recliner seat, over some of the other mainline carriers like United or American that offer business class pods or perhaps a fully flat seat. Despite Alaska Airlines’ convenience of multiple flights a day, is the fact that you’re travelling first class on a medium haul narrowbody aircraft really noticeable ?

This post is one chapter on our trip on the United Island Hopper and to Oahu & Kauai, Hawaii, United States. This trip was redeemed through Alaska Mileage Plan, United Airlines Mileage Plus and Marriott Bonvoy. It was further 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 B737-8, Seattle Tacoma International Airport – Daniel K. Inouye International Airport Honolulu

After arriving to Seattle Tacoma International Airport on Alaska Airlines First Class Vancouver – Seattle, and killing off a layover at the American Express Centurion Lounge Seattle (courtesy of the American Express Platinum Card) we packed up from the Centurion Lounge over in the B Gates and started the walk and train over to the N Gates.

We made an attempt to get into the brand new Alaska Lounge Seattle for our second visit but Alaska doesn’t recognize upgraded First Class space (or U fares) as valid for entry in Alaska Lounge, even on international itineraries starting in Canada unlike United Airlines. With only thirty minutes left prior to boarding, we waited out the rest of the time at Gate N13.

Waiting to Board at Sea Tac Gate N13
Alaska Airlines
AS 853 – First Class (U)
SEA – HNL (SeaTac International Airport – Honolulu)
January 27, 2020
5:45 PM – 10:05 PM
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800

On Board Alaska Airlines First Class:

Eventually, it came time to board. We boarded in a busy boarding group of First Class and MVP Golds and settled into Seat 1A and 1C. Alaska Airlines First Class on the Boeing 737-800 is set up in a 2 – 2 configuration in three rows of first class totalling twelve seats.

Boarding Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800
Alaska Airlines First Class Boeing 737-800

Unlike most shorter Alaska Airlines First Class flights, we had a menu waiting for us at our seats, along with the usual bottle of Dasani bottled water. We also had a small Alaska Airlines blue blanket waiting for us; something that is unique to the Hawaii service as I haven’t seen it on any other mainland medium or long haul routes.

Alaska Airlines Pre-Departure Water and Menu
Alaska Airlines First Class Blanket

We had one of the older “original” aircraft today with the aboriginal tapestry wall liner. Waiting at the seat was the usual bottle of Dasani water and an Alaska branded blanket.

A View from the Seats – Alaska Airlines Headboard

One of the main drawbacks of the Alaska First Class seat configuration is that there is no where to actually store many items. Aside from a seat map pocket which is shared between the seats in the bulkhead, there isn’t much storage location for phones, passports or spaces to charge devices. This ended up being cameras stacked on top of laptop bags, with charging devices and phones stacked on top of the bags. Still, this is probably one of the most notable differences between flying a narrow body aircraft compared to a larger aircraft.


Pre – Departure Services:

It was a bit of a process getting going today with several non revenue passengers coming on at the last minute, followed by some on board seat swaps. Since we were seated in 1A and 1C, we had a prime view of all of this.

During this time, a pre-departure beverage was offered of sparkling mai tai which was premixed from a tetra pack. The Alaska Pre-Departure Beverage seems to be hit and miss unlike the other major US carriers. I certainly don’t say no when it’s offered…

Alaska Airlines Pre – Departure Sparkling Mai Tai

We had the usual departure flight time announcements with an announced flight time of 5 hours and 55 minutes flying time.

Alaska Airlines doesn’t normally offer a printed menu in First Class unless you happen to be on the Hawaiian Service routes. We settled in with the menus for the evening as we departed on runway 34/16 with minimal wait.

Alaska Airlines First Class Menu: Seattle – Honolulu

Since the printed menus aren’t completely regular, Alaska Airlines publishes it’s drink offerings in the on board Alaska Airlines Beyond magazine. The menus are typically found at the back of the magazine. Today’s flight offered Browne Family Vineyards wine, along with a selection of liquors and Pacific Northwest Craft Beers.

Alaska Airlines First Class Wine List
Alaska Airlines First Class Beer and Liqueur List

We had a bumpy ride out with expected turbulence announced for the first 2 hours of the flight. Indeed, it was slow going and the meal service did not start until 7:30 PM or an hour and forty five minutes into the flight.

The Meal: A Dinner

We started with a limp towel service, followed by a drink service. I asked for the chardonnay which was advertised as Browns’ but I suspect was something else entirely since it tasted different from the Browns’ that we usually collect at Costco, Bellingham, WA. We never saw the bottle since the drinks are poured in the galley.

A Pre- Supper Cocktail with Mixed Nuts

I have found Alaska Airlines meal portions tend to be a little bit on the small side. We started with a creamy ginger carrot bisque followed by a mixed salad with balsamic vinaigrette. The soup was great, although smaller portioned, where as the salad looked like it had a bad day in the office and was ready to get home for the evening.

creamy ginger carrot bisque followed by a mixed salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

This was followed by the main, the roasted pomegranate glazed chicken. I had pre-ordered this on the Alaska Airlines App a few days before the trip as I’ve had bad luck generally of airlines running out of my first choice lately. It was a reasonable, if not eclectic taste. MrsWT73 opted for a pre-order of the cheese plate as a meal, which she enjoyed.

Roasted Pomegranate Glazed Chicken
Assorted Cheese Plate

We finished the meal with Salt and Straw Handmade Ice Cream which was really tasty; Beecher’s Cheese and Peppercorn Toffee. It was to die for… It was a solid upgrade on the dessert offering.

Salt and Straw Ice Cream

In Flight Entertainment: A Tablet

Alaska passes out Tablets’ in first class for movies on its Hawaii flights. There are no in seat back monitors and there are no holders for the tablets in the seat configurations. The balance of the tablets are made available to rent for the remaining passengers, although they don’t cater enough for the entire flight. I wouldn’t plan on relying on this for entertainment if you were riding in economy class.

I settled into the Hobbs and Shaw movie along with a final Gin and Tonic with lime. The tablet was a nice touch since but the neck down wards angle view was a little uncomfortable for me after a while.

Alaska Airlines Tablet Entertainment System

The cabin was prepared well early for the descent into Honolulu. The crew were clearing things about 45 minutes in advance of our planned arrival.

We had a straight in landing into Honolulu at gate E6. As we stepped off, we saw that the plane was being turned around to depart for Anchorage Alaska. We located our bags and headed off into Honolulu.

Arriving to Honolulu International Airport
Arriving to Honolulu International Airport
US Army Hawaii Replacement Company Notices for Arriving Armed Forces

We would transfer over to The Sheraton Waikiki for a four night stay. I would set off on the United Island Hopper while MrsWT73 would enjoy the comforts of the hotel while I was away.

The Bottom Line: Alaska Airlines First Class Hawaii Service

All in all, Alaska First Class is a nicer way to get to Hawaii than being seated in the back in economy. It’s a reasonable First Class service; you’ll get fed, have drinks available and probably be entertained through a movie. However, you won’t ever mix up this flight with any wide body service where there’s ample space to move around or advanced entertainment systems or deluxe catering. I would also expect for those that like to work or be productive during the flight, that it is a balancing act since there is a lack of storage space in these seats. It’s still an enjoyable way to get to Hawaii.

If you fly from the mainland to Hawaii, is Alaska Airlines part of the airlines you’d consider flying (instead of American or United) ?

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