Our trip to New York started with a redeye Alaska Economy flight. Red eye flights can be hell, but I almost always book them. When you are constantly taking short trips it is best to try to maximize time at your destination. The best way to do that is to travel during times when you would normally be sleeping. This is one reason I really like taking sleeper trains when I am in Europe. You go to bed in one city and you wake up ready to go at your destination. Unfortunately, due to the improvements in train speeds and the rise of ultra-low cost carriers like EasyJet sleeper trains are becoming a thing of the past. Redeyes can also save money. Consider the alternative to a red eye, that still maximizes time at the destination. You would fly in earlier that day, which would require an extra night hotel.
With Alaska I always check in online the moment check-in opens. Pro-Tip: As check-in opens, Alaska opens up their prefered economy seats to anyone. This might not be the case for saver fares, those didn’t exist at the time and I haven’t tried one out yet. You can typically move from the seat you originally selected near the back, to an exit row seat with extra legroom free of charge. Even if the exit row seats are taken, you can move towards the front for a quick exit upon landing. Things like this may be minimal, but on a 6 hour flight 4 inches of extra legroom is huge. This flight I was able to move Stephanie and I to exit row window seats. While we could have sat next to each other, neither of us wanted to take the middle. I would later come to regret this (FORESHADOWING!!!!)
Upon arriving at the airport, I went straight to security. This flight was at the beginning of January during at the start of the government shut down, but prior to it having any real TSA impact. With TSA Precheck I was through security in about five minutes and at The Club at Sea within another five minutes. After 45 minutes at the lounge, Stephanie and I trekked over to the North Satellite terminal where Alaska flights typically depart. This isn’t too bad, SeaTac has a tram System that connects both Satellites to the main terminal. We got to the gate just before boarding started. Alaska Economy passengers who are sitting towards the front are always in boarding group D. At the time, was the last boarding group*. So the plane was full by the time we boarded. Luckily there was sufficient room for our carry-on bags.
*Note in February Alaska started selling “Saver” fares. These Saver fares are their version of basic economy. One of the drawbacks of these fares is being in the last boarding group. They have added a boarding group E to accommodate those who book saver fares.
Passengers Behaving Badly
On this flight, I can tell you have experienced something I have never experienced in my years of travel. I can also tell you I have never been more uncomfortable than I was because of the passenger sitting next to me. The offender was already in his seat when I boarded. He was wearing a virtual reality headset. While I have no issues with VR on planes, it is probably best to wait until after boarding to put it on. VR is extremely immersive and it took me a while to get his attention so he could get up and let me through. But, that wasn’t the issue.
He did what?
He kept doing whatever he was doing in his VR, during the safety announcement and as we taxied it happened. The passenger unzipped his fly and stuck his hand down his pants.
I was appalled. Absolutely disgusted. Horrified. I understand that VR is extremely immersive, but even in your VR world you need to know where you are. Now I am not someone who is faint hearted, but that is not something you expect to see on a plane. In close quarters to someone. What do you do in that situation? I was a deer in the headlights. I thought about trying to get his attention and confronting him, but that could cause a scene and get me kicked off the plane. Also, I could have hit the call button, but we were in the process of taking off, so they would not be able to respond until we were in the air.
By the time we were in the air he took of his headset, and his hand was out of pants. I told myself if he does it again, I would call a flight attendant. Luckily, he hit the call button, and asked to be moved because the person in the aisle seat apparently smelled bad (though I didn’t smell it). Funny enough, while the flight attendant was looking for a seat he got on twitter. I had to glance over. If you do that on a plane, you don’t deserve privacy. He tweeted something to the extent of Plane etiquette rule number 1: do not have your music on so loud that the person next to you can hear. Seriously? You’re tweeting about plane etiquette? HUMAN ETIQUETTE RULE NO. 1 KEEP YOUR HAND OUT OF YOUR PANTS IN PUBLIC. It really isn’t that hard (no pun intended).
Once he was moved I was able to relax, and the ride got much better. Alaska operates this route with a Boeing 737-900. This plane seats about 180 people (give or take) and our flight was relatively full. There were a few empty seats here or there (lucky enough for that guy to move), but full enough.
The Seats are in a 2-2 configuration in First and the Alaska economy seats are in a 3-3 configuration. Alaska’s economy Seats are about 17 inches wide and there is about 32 inches of legroom. It is a bit tight, but not as bad some. The extra legroom in the exit row, definitely made this flight better, and I would definitely recommend checking in as soon as possible to get those exit row seats. The seats themselves were the newer slimline seats, which have very little padding. However, the seats did not bother me too much, while it was not the most comfortable flight for 5 1/2, I have definitely had worse. I really do prefer seats with a little more padding.
This plane, and any Alaska Airlines planes that did not originate with Virgin America, do not have seat back screens. Instead Alaska opts for a bring your own device model of IFE The plane is equipped with wifi you can download an app, to watch a selection of movies during the flight. I cannot stress how much I hate this model. I absolutely despise it. Sure, it is cheaper for the airline, but I typically don’t travel with a tablet I can prop up. If I use my phone I have to set it flat on the tray table and look down the entire time. It also drains my battery to stream video for 5 horus. The later isn’t a concern on this flight as each seat had a universal outlet right underneath the tray table. Regardless, be like Delta and spring for the seatback screens, everyone likes them better.
As it was a redeye flight that left at 9:55 pm the goal was to sleep as much as possible. To that point in economy Alaska did a good job of doing a drink service as soon as possible after take off and then immediately turning off the cabin lights after to allow as much sleep as possible. From the minimal interaction I had with them the flight attendants were extremely friendly, but I am glad for them not being over friendly and just letting everyone sleep. I assume working redeyes is a pretty sweet gig (other than the hours), as most people just want to sleep. Prior to landing the flight attendants went through with another drink service, I decided just to sleep through it as I would need my energy for our first day in new york.
Our Alaska economy flight to New York took off right on time. Which is a good thing, considering the last time Stephanie flew Alaska out of SeaTac it was anything but smooth. That time right before we were scheduled to board an Horizon Air Employee stole a plane it was operating for Alaska, which completely shut down operations at SeaTac for close to an hour. The employee ended up crashing the plane into an island over the Puget Sound, luckily he was the only one who was hurt. However, that led to massive delays and waits to actually take off or land at SeaTac.
The flight itself was extremely smooth only mild turbulence every so often that was enough to wake me from my sleep (I am a light sleeper). We ended up arriving at new york on time.
What do you do when a passenger is doing something completely inappropriate? Honestly I had no clue, I have never been in that situation. Once he moved however, our economy flight in Alaska economy was excellent as always. While I don’t prefer Alaska on longer flights, due to their lack of seatback IFE, they offer a solid product.