Alaska airlines 737–900/ER first class San Diego to Orlando

Alaska airlines 737–900/ER first class San Diego to Orlando

I sort of knew that I was going to regret flying Alaska Airlines to Florida, and it all started when my parents asked me for my flight details so that they could prepare for my arrival. “Alaska Airlines flight number 760 from San Diego” I said, already holding my face in the palm of my hand in anticipation of a confused reply loaded with silly questions.

You see, Alaska airlines isn’t very well-known in the eastern part of United States, as it’s only been in the past few years that they’ve made an aggressive push eastwards in an attempt to grow their network beyond the West Coast. Simply saying the words “Alaska Airlines” is enough to make some people in the east (such as my parents) think of old and rickety DC-3’s flying pallets of fresh salmon down from the Arctic.

“No mom, they are actually a major airline with a hub in San Diego, and they fly to a lot more places than just Alaska. Including Orlando.” A long and awkward pause followed, and I knew that I would be spending a majority of this trip explaining the Alaska Airlines business model over and over to my entire family.

San Diego, CA (SAN) – Orlando, FL (MCO)
Saturday, March 24, 2018
Aircraft: 737-990/ER
Registration: N486AS
Duration: 3 hours 59 minutes
Seat: 4A (first class)

Alaska Airlines 737-900/ER side view illustration
Alaska Airlines 737-900/ER (N486AS) side view illustration by This is the 2015 “Updated” livery which I didn’t even know existed until I did the research to create this illustration.
Our route from SAN to MCO
Our route from SAN to MCO today: ZZOOO2 IPL J2 HEEDS J2 TUS J2 ELP J86 LEV Q100 REMIS PIE COSTR3

Fancy a video to go with this written trip report? Ask and ye shall receive (soundtrack courtesy of Epidemic Sound):

I love flying out of San Diego International Airport (most of the time). Its not so fun when I have to get out of bed at 3am to catch a 6am flight, and flying out of terminal 1 sucks pretty bad too.

The pinnacle of suckage involves a 6am flight out of T1, but thankfully I didn’t have it that bad this morning because my flight wasn’t scheduled to depart until 10-ish. So things were only half sucky, and I tried to keep my mind focused on the positive as I walked in and queued up in the security line.

Terminal one San Diego airport
Ugh. Terminal 1. As repetitive as it’s become over the last year or so, it’s definitely a lot more fun to start a trip report with a picture of the exterior of terminal 2 instead.
Terminal 2 San Diego airport design details
There are actually some pretty neat design details in this old building, but that doesn’t stop it from sucking pretty hard.
Alaska airlines check-in San Diego airport
Alaska airlines check-in counters here in terminal one. On a side note, how many people do you see looking at me as I take this picture? I count three…
San Diego airport terminal one interior
Here’s a picture looking the other direction. Neat, huh? Yes, I’m stalling and trying to avoid going into the Circle of Death too early.
San Diego airport terminal one departures
Unfortunately, it’s really difficult to kill time here in terminal 1 before going through security. Staring at the flight board will eat up a minute or two, which doesn’t help me much considering that boarding for my flight doesn’t begin for another hour.
San Diego airport terminal one entrance
Well, this is it. I’m past security now, and up those escalators is the Circle of Death. Can I get a “good luck and Godspeed”?

I did fairly well timing my arrival to the airport so that I wouldn’t have to spend very much time waiting before the flight. There is absolutely nothing to do here in terminal 1 (“Circle of Death” sounds better don’t you think?), and good luck finding a quiet place to sit and relax.

This terminal is far too overcrowded at most times of the day thanks entirely to Alaska Airlines and their very aggressive growth here in San Diego over the past few years. They have pushed terminal 1 to it’s absolute limits, and it’s going to be so much better when they move over to terminal 2 east soon.

Crowded terminal 1 San Diego international airport
See what I mean? Good luck finding a place to sit down!
Alaska airlines 737 San Diego international airport
It’s a good thing that I’m a total airline nerd, because watching the ground crew prep our plane to Orlando easily killed another 10 minutes.
Gate 17 terminal one San Diego international airport
Somewhere in all this chaos is gate 17, which is our departure point for this flight to Orlando this morning. If you squint your eyes and tilt your head, you can probably see it way back there.
Alaska airlines gate wait list
Good luck Chi/D – we’re all rooting for you!
Alaska airlines mobile boarding pass
Never mind my mobile boarding pass. What the heck is that guy doing in the left-hand side of this picture?

The pain of being stuck in the Circle of Death for more than 20 minutes caused me to not even notice if we boarded on time. I think we did, but I really can’t say for certain.

San Diego airport jet bridge terminal one
The feeling of finally being free of the Circle of Death is a feeling like nothing else.

It’s been several years since I’ve last been in Alaska Airlines 737-900 first class, and I guess I was sort of expecting things to be a little bit different than last time. I mean, they just swallowed up Virgin America, so it would seem logical to think that maybe they learned a thing or two from that transaction about being hip and offering a fun and competitive first class product. My hopes were high as I walked down the jet bridge and onto the plane.

Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that this was the same old Alaska Airlines 737–900 first class product that I remembered from several years ago. Absolutely nothing had changed – the seats were still exactly the same and covered in that familiar blue leather-like material (there’s no way that’s real leather), and the Alaska-style markings on the bulkheads hadn’t changed either.

(Update: the all new Alaska Airlines first class product is much better!)

Alaska airlines 737–900 first class seats
Alaska Airlines 737–900 first class seats. No white leather to be found unfortunately. And, for the record, these seats are a lot more wrinkly than the seats in Alaska Airlines E175 first class. Just sayin’.
Complimentary bottle of water at every seat
Complimentary bottles of water at every seat was a nice touch. It’s kind of like they’ve been reading my trip reports and they know all about my fascination with drinking water on airplanes…
Alaska airlines first class leg room
Legroom was pretty good. Not quite Virgin America good, but pretty good nonetheless.
Space under seat first class Alaska airlines
Either my backpack was full of too much stuff, or the space under the seat was too small. It was probably a little bit of both.
SANspotter selfie Alaska Airlines
Fun fact: The first thing I do when I board an airplane is to stuff earbuds deep in my ears as a way to prevent getting sucked into an unending conversation with a chatty seatmate. I’m not antisocial or anything, but once you get stuck sitting next to someone trying to sell you on an MLM pyramid scheme and you can’t get away, you’ll do anything to prevent it from happening again.
Alaska airlines 737–900 safety card
Nerd alert! “Look Barbara, he’s taking a picture of the safety card!”

Despite things looking the same as I remembered from last time, there was one big change that didn’t reveal itself until all of the first class passengers were onboard and we were just about ready to push off the gate. That’s when the flight attendant came through the cabin handing out menus for the lunch service.

It turns out that Alaska Airlines had just revamped their entire menu several weeks prior, offering a much higher quality product with some very delicious (and fancy) options. My last meal in Alaska Airlines first class was hardly memorable, so I was very much looking forward to giving this new menu a try.

For the record, I actually pre-ordered my meal on the Alaska Airlines app several weeks prior, which ended up being unnecessary since both options were still available when the orders were taken.

 Alaska airlines first class lunch menu
The lunch menu. What would you choose?
Alaska airlines upcoming features
On the backside of the menu was a little preview of what’s to come over the next year at Alaska Airlines! Looks nice, but I don’t see anything here about white leather seats and purple mood lighting.
Alaska Airlines 737–900 first-class cabin
How do you say “let’s go!” in Eskimo?

It was a dark and gloomy departure out of San Diego this morning, but the skies cleared and the sun shined just as expected just minutes after take off. It’s always a treat to look down on the city I love so much, though it does make me start to feel a bit of homesickness even before the trip really begins.

Alaska airlines pushback from gate San Diego Airport
I can’t really say that I was sad to leave terminal 1.
San Diego airport 737
Ooh look! Another 737 – how exciting!! (Said no AvGeek ever).
Departing for MCO Alaska airlines San Diego airport
Next stop: MCO! At least I hope so…
 Departing SAN Alaska airlines 737
The beauty of departing San Diego International airport. It’s always amazing, even on gloomy days like this.
Flying over point Loma San Diego
I’m not even sure that I blinked once as we rounded the tip of Point Loma.

The flight attendant came through the first class cabin handing out little balls of fire (extremely hot towels) 10 minutes after departure, and it wasn’t long before they came through again taking drink orders.

A little unexpected treat was the fact that they also served warm nuts with the drinks, which really hit the spot considering that I was starting to feel hungry. Remember, I flew out of terminal 1 this morning, which has very few options for a quick and delicious breakfast.

Alaska airlines first class warm nuts
Mmm, I love warm nuts! Hey – get your minds out of the gutter…
Flying over the American Southwest
Enjoying the view while I fondle my warm… ok…let’s not go there. On to the next pic…
Contrail shadow
Check out that cool contrail shadow!

Next up was the distribution of portable video players, which was complementary for all first class passengers. These same video players were available to those in coach today as well, for a cost of $10 per person. I passed on it, not exactly feeling in the mood for movies or TV. Lunch was the only thing on my mind at this point, which was perfect because that’s what’s coming next…

Alaska airlines first class lunch
This is the vegetarian ravioli. Nothing I would call amazing, but still pretty darn good for airplane food and much higher quality than what they used to serve here in first class.

Overall, the lunch service on today’s flight was pretty good, though a bit on the slow side. I was seated in row four, and by the time the flight attendants reached me, the people in the first two rows had already finished their meals and were waiting for their trays to be cleared.

So, I guess that means if you want to be one of the first ones to eat on Alaska Airlines, you need to sit in the first two rows. Those of us in rows three and four had to suffer a bit as we waited our turn to feast.

I devoured my meal completely, making me realize that I was much hungrier than I thought I was. It wasn’t the best first class meal I’ve ever had, but it was pretty darn tasty and I had no complaints.

Delicious Alaska airlines first class food
Props to the Alaska airlines culinary staff!

But wait, there’s more! Another unexpected little treat were the little containers of Nancy’s Fancy vanilla ice cream they handed out about an hour after the meal service. I

thought for sure that there would be nothing else other than a snack basket for the rest of the flight to Orlando today, but they came through in a big way with that ice cream and I had fun for the next 30 minutes chiseling away at it with the fork they served it with.

It eventually thawed enough to eat, and it was a nice and flavorful complement to the view outside of my window as I bobbed my head to an eclectic selection of music.

Alaska airlines first class ice cream
Normally I would scoff at eating ice cream with a fork, but it was so hard that it ended up being the perfect tool for the job.
Listening to public enemy on a flight
Nothing pairs with vanilla ice cream better then a little bit of Chuck D and Public Enemy. Hey, I’m from Detroit, so cut me some slack will ya?
Listening to music in flight
Actually, there’s probably nothing scarier than a white boy like me head-bobbing to Public Enemy on an Alaska Airlines flight to Orlando.
Cotton ball clouds
Cotton ball clouds: a very clear indication that we are somewhere over the southeastern US by now.
Alaska airlines 737–900 lavatory
If this were a picture of a Delta 757 lav, would you even be able to tell?
SANspotter selfie Alaska airlines
The look on your face when you realize that you just announced to the world that you still listen to public Enemy with the same head-bobbing enthusiasm you had when you were 13.
Alaska airlines 737–900 first class cabin
I’m willing to bet pretty much anything that I was the only one up here in first class today jamming out to Chuck D and his crew.

I think I napped for a little bit once I came down from the sugar high, because I woke up just as we were approaching the Western coast of Florida. We came in right over top of Tampa, which seemed odd to me considering that it’s so much farther south than Orlando and it seemed to be a little bit of an awkward way in to MCO. But then again, I’m not a pilot so what do I know?

Flying over Tampa Florida
Don’t you hate waking up from a deep sleep just as you’re flying over a major city and you have absolutely no idea where you are? It’s trippy as hell.
Approach into Orlando airport
Wait, this is Florida? Impossible! Where all the thunderstorms and hurricanes?

The most interesting thing about the approach into Orlando was the fact that there weren’t any clouds in the skies above Florida today. Seriously – flying into Florida in the late afternoon can be a scary experience with the notorious storms that bubble up here on a daily basis, but there was none of that happening today.

It was the most beautiful and clear landing that I’ve ever experienced at any airport in Florida, and it honestly felt a bit weird. The last time I flew into MCO, the storms were fierce and the butt-pucker factor was pegged in the red zone.

Once on the ground, the pilot left her in high gear and we darn near flew over to our arrival gate. It was the fastest taxi that I’ve ever experienced, and combined with the sunny blue skies overhead, it was sensory overload.

Arrival at Orlando airport
We were moving so fast that I honestly have no idea how this pic didn’t turn out blurry as hell.

Unfortunately, that fast taxi over to the gate sort of bit us in the ass because we had to sit and wait for about 20 minutes for our gate to open up. I’m not sure what the hurry was if our gate was already occupied, but they were very much in a rush to get us over there as fast as humanly possible. Weird.

Waiting for a gate Orlando airport
So close, but yet so far. Sitting idle waiting for our gate open up.

The only benefit for having to sit there and wait was the fact that it gave me some time to think about how I was going to respond to all of those silly Alaska Airlines questions I was sure to get from my family over the coming week.

Alaska airlines 737 Orlando airport
Thanks for the ride today! You are a good looking bird, but I’m hoping to fly on one of your brothers or sisters wearing the new livery on the way home. Let’s hope that happens…

Comments (6)

  1. Emiliano Padilla

    May 16, 2018
    • SANspotter

      May 17, 2018
  2. Tom

    January 1, 2019
    • SANspotter

      January 1, 2019
  3. Maureen

    March 13, 2021
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      March 13, 2021

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