My family and I recently flew from Oakland to Honolulu and back for a weekend Hawaiian jaunt, and had very enjoyable in-flight economy class experiences even with a three year old in tow. If you are going to be flying with small children, Alaska is one of the top airlines on my list of recommendations (along with Virgin America & JetBlue). Here’s why:
Food: Alaska has some of the tastiest economy food selections, particularly on their flights to Hawaii where they attempt to offer a few Hawaiian-inspired dishes. My husband and I shared a Kalua pork quesadilla on one of our flights, and a Hawaiian breakfast skillet on the other. Our daughter happily devoured the fruit & cheese platter on both legs — no kid’s meal for her this trip! Prices were very reasonable ($6 each for the Hawaiian dishes and $7 for the fruit and cheese platter), so even though we brought plenty of our own food on-board, we were happy to pay a little to have the hot meal option. It certainly got us in the Hawaiian spirit.
Entertainment: Alaska does not have seat-back or overhead entertainment, so I initially dismissed it as an entertainment lightweight. We brought our iPad loaded with kid-friendly movies and TV shows for my daughter since we knew there would not be a movie shown on board. As my daughter was blissfully entertained for much of the five hour flight, I decided that I might actually want to watch a movie as well! Since my iPad was held hostage by my three year old, I decided to rent one of Alaska’s “digE Players.” Basically, these are small devices about the size of a portable DVD player that are loaded with movies and TV shows. For our flight, the rental was $10. I was surprised to find that there were a number of good new releases available, as well as lots of classic movies and more TV content that you could possibly ever watch. Best of all, the device had two headphone jacks so my husband and I could watch a show together for the cost of the single device rental. Although I still prefer the seatback entertainment systems of Virgin America, JetBlue, and some of the newly-refreshed planes of the major carriers, Alaska got the job done for us at the right price.
Little perks: Unlike all of the major airlines, Alaska still keeps a few of the fun and unique perks of flying alive. On all inbound Hawaii flights, they serve a complimentary mai tai to adults about an hour before landing (and passion-orange-guava juice to kids and non-drinkers). And they have always had an Alaska Airlines-branded coloring book at the ready for my daughter on every flight. These little perks don’t cost much, but they make the flight feel special and makes Alaska stand out from the rest.
Service: In all of my several recent flights with Alaska, I’ve been most pleased with the friendliness of the flight attendants. They seem to truly enjoy their job and like to help passengers have a nice flight. On our last flight, every flight attendant went out of his or her way to speak to my daughter and were patient with her as she told them all about where she was going and what she wanted to order to eat or drink (my daughter is a talker!).
We’ll definitely be looking to fly Alaska again for our flights to the Pacific Northwest and to Hawaii. Since Alaska is currently a partner with both Delta and American, it is nice to have the choice to top off either of our frequent flyer accounts, depending on where we need the miles at any given time too.