Alaska Airlines has long had a reputation for excellent customer service and in recent years has expanded its fleet beyond its West Coast hubs to 115 destinations, including cities in Mexico, Costa Rica, and its most recent new route to Belize.
What to know about Alaska Airlines first class
Alaska Airlines is mainly a regional domestic carrier, so don’t expect lie-down seats, private pods or any of the other more luxury-style first class offerings you see on major international airline routes.
What your first class experience will include is wider seats, extra legroom, complimentary meals and alcoholic beverages, two free checked bags, priority check-in and boarding lines, and a flight attendant dedicated only to serving the first class cabin. Access to Alaska Airlines’ lounges is a perk but only available at six of its West Coast hubs.
While most of their planes have a first class cabin, be aware that if booking a multi-leg flight that AA’s smaller airplanes do not have first class seating. You will retain your lounge and priority perks but there will be no special seating or meals.
If you have the budget, first-class seats on Alaska Airlines will give you a superior service and comfort experience worth aiming for, especially on longer coast-to-coast and international flights.
Which routes are worth upgrading to first class on Alaska Airlines?
- Miami (MIA) to Seattle (SEA)
- Chicago (ORD) to Anchorage (ANC)
- San Jose (SJC) to Kona (KOA)
- Los Angeles (LAX) to Belize City (BZE)
- Seattle (SEA) to Baltimore (BWI)
Examples of deals Scott's Cheap Flights has found on Alaska:
- Mexico City for $492 roundtrip in first class
- Alaska for $496 roundtrip in first class
- LA to Austin for $358 roundtrip in first class
- Hawaii for $908 roundtrip in first class
The Alaska Airlines first class experience at the airport
Alaska Airlines first class lounge access
All first class bookings include access to Alaska Airlines lounges in the following AA hubs:
- Anchorage (ANC)
- New York (JFK)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- Portland (PDX)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Seattle (SEA)
Alaska Airlines’ hub at the SeaTac Airport in Seattle offers three lounges in Concourses C, D, and N. Major upgrades and expansions are planned on lounges in Portland and Seattle through 2026 so expect periodic closings. Lounge hours can be accessed on the airline app and website.
Each lounge offers all-day fresh snacks and buffet-style meals as well as complimentary local beer, wine, and house spirits with additional alcoholic beverages and select food items for purchase. Many enjoy the “print your own pancake” machines and the espresso and tea offerings but do not expect the more substantial food options that larger international airline lounges include.
Free Wi-Fi and access to PressReader online are included in all lounges. Take advantage of business workstations or choose from relaxed seating areas by a fire or windows overlooking the runway.
Note that first class tickets do not grant travelers access to partner lounges, and if a traveler is upgraded to first-class from premium or economy due to their airline status, their ticket will not include lounge access. For full unlimited access to Alaska Airlines as well as partner lounges purchase a yearly Alaska Lounge+ Membership.
Alaska Airlines first class check-in
As a first-class passenger, you can use the priority check-in line at the airport. If checking in at the Seattle Airport, you can also access the new Seattle Spot Saver program for expedited security screening. However, those with TSA Precheck will want to choose that service over Spot Saver, which still requires travelers to remove shoes and electronics.
Alaska Airlines first class baggage allowance
First class tickets include two free checked bags and one carry-on plus one personal item like a purse or laptop carrier. Checked luggage over 50 pounds or over 62 linear inches may incur additional charges. Customers who have status in the oneworld alliance can check one additional bag for free.
Of note, Alaska Airlines waives baggage fees for transporting pineapples from Hawaii and wine from select West Coast destinations. Check the Alaska Airlines baggage information for details and restrictions applying to these special wavers.
Alaska Airlines is a carrier used to catering to travelers who engage in outdoor sports, fishing, and hunting activities for their travels, so have additional information on their website regarding oversized baggage, special equipment, or moving frozen food that may or may not be counted in your free baggage allotment. Check their website or call for more information.
Always remember that if your travel includes multiple airlines and classes of service to check the baggage rules for each leg of your route.
The Alaska Airlines first class experience in the air
Alaska Airlines first class seats
Alaska Airlines advertises a generous 41 inch seat pitch on their first class seating, referring to the distance between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat behind it. They do not provide actual legroom measurements, but seat pitch is a good indication of how roomy your seat will feel. Adding to the feeling of roominess is a seat divider with cupholders doubled between each first class seat.
- For the widest seats at 21.3 inches you will want to fly in the 737 MAX-9, 737-700, or Airbus A320 & A321 aircrafts. These crafts feature either 3 or 4 rows of 2-2 seating in the first class cabin.
- On the 737-900ER and 737-900, expect a slightly narrower 20.45 inch seat with four rows of 2-2 seating. The 737-800 also has the 20.45 inch seat but with three rows of 2-2 seating.
- While most Alaska Airlines planes have three or four rows of 2-2 seating in first class, the Embraer 175 has four rows of 1-2 seating. That means that one side of the aisle has a row of two seats together, and the other side of the aisle is just single seats. These seats are also the smallest of AA’s first class seats at 20 inches wide.
Alaska Airlines does have some routes that are served with smaller planes that do not have first class seats. These planes are the Bombardier Q400 operated by Horizon Air, a sister airline managed by Alaska Airlines since the 1980s. If you are flying to smaller cities in the Pacific Northwest, you might find your route includes these small Bombardier Q400 turboprops. When booking, use the preview seats function to see if your route has first class options for every leg. As long as you have a first class ticket booked for that day, you will still have the other benefits such as two checked bags, priority boarding, and lounge access on your trip. Everyone on the Horizon flights will enjoy the same Alaska Airlines level of service and be offered complimentary beverages, including regional alcoholic drinks.
In the past decade, Alaska Airlines has upgraded all of their Boeing 737-800, -900, and -900ER aircraft seats with in-seat electrical outlets and tablet holders. It is important to know that Alaska Airlines does not have screens or entertainment tablets available for any of their flights. In any class, to access entertainment, you need to use the Alaska Airlines app on your own device. Wi-Fi for streaming their entertainment will be free on your flight, but Wi-Fi for other purposes is an additional charge.
Benefits of Alaska Airlines first class
First class on Alaska Airlines doesn’t just include wider seats with more legroom but also provides priority check in and boarding, two free checked bags, complimentary snacks, meals, and alcoholic beverages, and access to lounges at six of their primary hub airports.
Access to a dedicated first class flight attendant and concierge personnel in the lounges means that if there are disruptions to your travel, you will have several options for assistance.
Meals in Alaska Airlines first class
Domestic first class meals
On flights starting at 670+ miles, first-class passengers can expect an entrée and dessert with their flights if they depart between 5:00 am and 10:00 pm (so no meal on some of those red-eyes). Short flights will have a choice of cold entrées like their fruit and cheese platter or a protein plate, and flights over 1,100 miles will have a choice of hot entrées available such as their seasonal Autumn Squash Ancient Grain Bowl or pork and noodle bowl. The popular fruit and cheese platter is often snapped up by the first to reserve off the menu but if you miss out their salad options are usually fresh and substantial. Some flights will also include an appetizer and additional snacks like a small bowl of warmed salted mixed nuts. Expect full tray service with porcelain dishes, linens, and silverware.
Offerings on shorter flights vary and can be affected by flight conditions as some routes are so short they are not always able to offer a food and beverage service. It never hurts to ask the dedicated first class flight attendant what might be available, as some have access to off-menu items and snacks or can bring you a pre-service beverage.
Coast-to-coast and Hawaii first class meals
Alaska Airlines’ longer flights and flights to Hawaii may also offer regional flair to their food options like their Kalbi Short Ribs served with Pacific Island vegetables or Guajillo Chile-Lime Salad with ancient grains.
For all flights, you can pre-order meals up to 20 hours before your flight on the airline’s app or desktop check-in website. Pre-orders are encouraged as choices do get booked up, particularly Alaska Airlines’ popular Fruit & Cheese Platter featuring Beecher’s Flagship Handmade Cheese and Tillamook’s Sharp Cheddar with crackers, fruit, and a chocolate.
Alcohol in Alaska Airlines first class
In addition to their recyclable boxed water at your seat upon boarding in first-class and the usual array of hot and cold non-alcoholic beverages, there is a selection of free alcoholic drinks available to first-class passengers. Alaska Airlines showcases seasonal West Coast beers and wines, allowing you to sample new-to-you regional brands like Fremont and Rogue Breweries and Columbia River wines. The airline also offers a selection of spirits and accompanying cocktail mixers, including Tito's Vodka and Glenfarclas Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Seasonal featured cocktails will also be available on some flights.
Alaska Airlines first class vs premium class
Alaska Airlines’ premium class consists of a few rows in the front of the main cabin of the plane with seats that have 4 inches of extra legroom but are no wider than the other (economy) seats in the rest of the cabin. The additional perks included with premium class seats are priority boarding and complimentary alcoholic drinks. Since upgrading your seat to premium can be as low as $5, the extra space and being able to be seated early and stow your bags first may make this upgrade a good deal compared to economy and saver fares. However, premium class seating does not have the privacy, service, amenities, and extra comfort seating that first class offers.
How to book Alaska Airlines first class
How much does it cost for a first class ticket on Alaska Airlines?
Alaska Airlines’ first class seat prices can vary based on the route, time of year, and flight times you are considering. Many of the destinations Alaska Airlines flies to, such as Hawaii, Mexico, and of course, Alaska, have definite high and low seasons that will affect pricing.
How to upgrade to first class of Alaska Airlines for free
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members all have the possibility to be upgraded to either the premium or first class seats though conditions apply based on which level of status you have (MVP, MVP Gold, MVP Gold 75K, and MVP Gold 100K). Some qualifying fares allow you to select free upgrade seating at the time of booking, so if you are a member, make sure to log in to your account when you are booking tickets to see if instantly upgraded seats are available on your route. Some tiers of membership with the oneworld alliance can also access this free upgrade seat selection.
How much does it cost to upgrade to first class on Alaska Airlines?
Alaska Airlines only offers paid upgrades 24 hours before departure. Call, or use the website, app, or kiosk to see available seats and pricing, which starts as low as $23.
How many miles to upgrade to Alaska Airlines first class?
Mileage upgrades to first class can start as low as 15,000 miles. When booking your initial fare, select Mileage upgrade as your Upgrade preference option to ensure you purchase the correct fare class. You then have to call Alaska Airlines reservations to make the upgrade.
How to bid for an upgrade on Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines does not currently employ a bidding system to upgrade seats.
Alaska Airlines has enjoyed a reputation for good service and food. Booking a first class seat on your next trip, particularly for longer cross-country flights, will allow you a truly more elevated comfort and service experience. The best benefits will be if your journey takes you through one of the six airports that house an Alaska Airlines lounge.
If you are an Alaska Airlines Mileage Member, your chances of getting a free upgrade to first or premium class vary based on your route, season, and time of day, and upgrades do not include lounge access so if you have your heart set on a first class experience for a particular trip, then your best bet is booking first class directly. Luckily, as a Mileage Member, you will earn 75% bonus points for your flight.