New planes and carriers allow jet sampling trip from Alaska
Last week I flew on two new planes, a not too old plane, a fairly old plane and a brand new airline.
Most of my trips are on Alaska Airlines – and they do a great job.
But when other airlines fly to Anchorage, the fares drop. This summer has been particularly strong in the low fare department, as Delta, American and United clash with Alaska to fill their planes. In addition, two very low cost carriers, Sun Country Airlines and Frontier Airlines, put further downward pressure on fares.
“Family Affairs” was the excuse I needed to try out some of the new services.
As fares increased in Anchorage, I flew United Airlines from Anchorage to Fairbanks for better fares. Tickets were cheap: $ 39- $ 49 one way. Daily flight between Anchorage and Fairbanks, along with low fares, will continue through October 7.
While United’s bus tickets are cheap, you have to pay an extra $ 35 to check in a bag. Or do what we did: travel first class for $ 59 to $ 69 one way. With the comfortable seat in the front, you get two free checked bags.
United’s new plane had mood lighting, but the interior is very similar to every other 737 I’ve flown. For airlines, the difference is fuel efficiency. The 737 MAX 9 allegedly uses around 11% less fuel than older 737 models.
United’s late afternoon flight to Fairbanks aligned well with American Airlines’ late evening nonstop flights between Fairbanks and the Midwest (Chicago and Dallas).
Because we were changing airlines, we had to collect our luggage in Fairbanks, recheck it with American, and go through TSA again.
It’s times like these that the new Alaska-US agreements come into play. Your Club 49 benefit for two free checked bags now applies on American Airlines.
There are three reasons we chose American Airlines for this leg of our trip. First, Alaska Airlines does not fly to Richmond, Virginia. Second, American tickets from Fairbanks (about $ 170 each way) were much cheaper than other carriers. Third, as an elite traveler from Alaska Airlines (MVP Gold), I was able to secure seats in the “premium” section with more legroom at no additional cost. Plus, frequent travelers to Alaska earn miles on American flights – but the number of miles earned depends on how much you paid for your ticket. Most cheap tickets will get you 25% of the miles actually flown.
American non-stop flights from Fairbanks operate until October 6. But the airline will continue to fly Anchorage-Dallas nonstop until January 3, 2022.
Flying on the new Airbus A321neo was a bonus. I wanted to fly from Anchorage on one of American’s 787s, but the cost was twice that.
American’s nonstop night from Fairbanks to Chicago was busy. But the plane still smelled like a new plane. The seats were quite skinny and there was plenty of mood lighting as we got on board. The top bins are huge and can accommodate the biggest bags they’ll allow you to lug around on the plane.
American flight attendants made several announcements saying it was a fully booked flight. However, I noticed at least two empty seats: one in first class and one next to me! Another bonus.
Even though American says the flight will last more than six hours, there is no food service other than a cookie and a few mini pretzels. There is also no alcohol served, at least not in the cheap seats.
Our connecting flight from Chicago to Richmond was originally supposed to be another Airbus (A320neo). But we ended up on a small regional jet (E-145 by Embraer). It was the “old” plane. It was a 1×2 setup and was, well, cramped. However, the plane arrived in Richmond on time.
I downloaded the app from American, which gave me directions from our arrival gate in O’Hare to our connecting flight to Richmond.
The next flight on the route was on a new airline called Breeze.
Breeze was founded by David Neeleman, the same guy who ran Morris Air and then started JetBlue Airways. Neeleman also helped launch WestJet in Canada and Azul Airlines in Brazil.
Breeze focuses on secondary markets, offering non-stop service with a fleet of E-195 regional jets (leased from Azul). These smaller jets have 2×2 seats. The overhead compartments are not as big as the 737s or the Airbus jets.
From Richmond, Breeze serves three destinations: Charleston, Tampa and New Orleans. We are heading for New Orleans. Our front plane tickets were $ 99 each which included two free checked bags. The cheapest tickets are available for as little as $ 44 each way, but you’ll have to pay extra for checked baggage. The first rows of the E-195 have nicer seats and more legroom. Back in the cheap seats, there was around 31 inches of legroom, which is more generous than American, United or Spirit Airlines – three competitors on the road. Breeze offers the only non-stop service.
Breeze maintains its first class service for its brand new fleet of Airbus A220s. The nice seats are set up as 2×2 in the front, but they are only five (2×3) in the back of the plane.
On the E-195s, there is no power, no Wi-Fi, and no back seat entertainment. But we were in the air for only two hours. The snacks consisted of chips and water.
After arriving in New Orleans it took a long walk to collect the luggage – about half a mile. By the time we arrived our bags had arrived!
Not all travelers appreciate the chance to fly a bunch of different planes on different airlines. But Anchorage is getting more and more airlines – and it’s fun to see carriers bringing in new jets.