I flew back early Monday morning from FTU Seattle to home in Los Angeles on Alaska Airlines (note: I’m working on getting my FTU presentation blog-worthy – the slides are somewhat useless without commentary, so I’ll try to explain some of the general tips I gave later this week).
My flight was at 7am, so I stayed at the airport Doubletree the night before, but because I was rushing to catch the airport shuttle, I simply used my Hilton Gold breakfast voucher for a to-go cup at the in-house coffee shop. I could have woken up a bit earlier to wait for a hot snack, but this was the tail end of a 6-day trip that had me on the east coast the first few days, and almost each day I had to wake up before 5:30am, so I really wanted that sleep.
As I sat on the shuttle, I became a bit hungry. I realized I had maybe enough time to visit the Alaska Boardroom thanks to my Priority Pass I get with the American Express Platinum card. The Boardrooms have some breakfast options, including my favorite pancake machine, so I figured I could get a quick bite before boarding my flight. I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to breakfast.
The problem is that each time I’ve flown Alaska Airlines, they’ve begun boarding at least 40 minutes before departure. When you have the First Class cabin, Alaska MVP Elites, American Airlines elites, and Delta elites getting priority boarding on a Monday morning flight, you really have to be there when the first group boards if you want space in the bin.
However, Alaska Airlines also has a 20-minute baggage delivery guarantee for checked bags and has self-tag bag kiosks at many airports, meaning you should be able to get your bag tagged without a long line to worry about meeting the 40-minute cutoff time. If your bag doesn’t show up within 20 minutes on arrival at the bag claim, you get a $25 voucher you can use on a future Alaska Airlines flight or 2.500 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles (which I value more than $25). The policy works for Alaska since the largest planes they own are 737s, so it shouldn’t be too tough to unload them.
I could check my bag (for free with my American status), which would give me more time in the Boardroom, as I wouldn’t have to reach the gate early in hopes of getting overhead bin space on an elite-heavy commuter flight. The self-tag machines were simple to use, although as someone who’s always used to keeping a carry-on, I instinctively put the bag tag on and started walking to security before I remembered I needed to drop it off with an agent.
There are lines to drop off self-tagged bags, where you need to present your boarding pass and ID with your bag, but unfortunately it seemed to be amateur hour and everybody in front of me in line was trying to check in or print a bag tag, which should be done at general check-in or bag drop lines since they take more time. Like Scott said in his FTU presentation on Alaska Airlines, their employees are way too nice to tell people to go stand in another line.
I dropped my bag off right as the bag cut-off hit and made it through TSA Pre-Check with about 35 minutes until departure. The Alaska Airlines Boardroom at SeaTac is just past security, so I spent about 10 minutes in the upstairs portion enjoying a quick pancake breakfast, before heading over to the gate for boarding. It was a bit of a walk, but I didn’t have my roller bag with me, only a light backpack. I was probably the 2nd to last passenger to board with about 20 minutes until departure, and took my seat in the exit row. Although the bins were full, I could easily put my backpack under the seat in front of me.
On arrival, I timed how long it took for my bag to arrive by starting a stopwatch on my phone. I don’t know when Alaska starts their clock, but I assume it’s based on the arrival time which can easily be looked up on various apps (like FlightTrack). It ended up taking me 12 minutes to get from my seat to the bag claim, and my bag arrived less than 2 minutes later. No $25 voucher or 2500 miles for me, but instead a better flying experience. I’ll definitely take that.