Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class isn’t for the short (or sober)

Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class isn’t for the short (or sober)

I’d love to tell you that my recent 4.5 hour flight in Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class was one of the most underrated air travel experiences I’ve had in a while, but I don’t think I could do that with a straight face. It was just OK.

Sure, the leg room was excellent. I appreciated the free alcohol (even though I didn’t take them up on it). Being in the first economy class group to board the plane was pretty sweet as well.

Honestly? Considering that I still had to pay for food in what was essentially a tiny (and notably firm) economy class seat, it left me feeling that I could’ve saved a few bucks and sat in regular economy instead. I’m basically too short (and sober) to fully appreciate the benefits of Premium Class.

AS777
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Washington DC (IAD)
Monday, August 28, 2023
Aircraft: 737 MAX 9
Registration: N936AK
Duration: 4 hours 34 minutes
Seat: 9A (Premium Class)

Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 (San Francisco Giants livery) side view N936AK
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 (San Francisco Giants livery) side view illustration by NorebboStock.com.
as777 flight track
Our route from San Diego to Washington Dulles today as AS777.

My full review of Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class from San Diego to Washington DC (IAD)

Those of you with eagle eyes (and a crap ton of ‘AvGeek’ in your soul) no doubt raised an eyebrow upon reading the flight number of this flight up above in the description. ‘777’ didn’t happen by accident. Here’s how it all went down:

  • In early 2023, Alaska Airlines announced new service from SAN to IAD.
  • United (the dominant – and only – airline on that route) was none too pleased to hear the news. In retaliation, they immediately announced that they would be upgauging one of their daily IAD flights to a Boeing 777-200 (with lie flat first class seats).
  • Alaska Airlines essentially said “bring it mofos!” while simultaneously announcing ‘777’ as the flight number for their new SAN-IAD service. Hilarity ensued, and the battle for IAD was on.

Arrival at the airport

I arrived at the San Diego International Airport exactly 2 hours before what would be my 3rd ever Alaska Airlines Premium Class experience. I didn’t need to arrive that early considering that I had checked in online (and I already had my boarding pass), but I’m of the opinion that it never hurts to be punctual.

Besides – had I waited, I’d just be sitting at home wishing that I was at the the airport instead. The grass is always greener, right?

SANspotter in the terminal 2 parking garage San Diego airport
Would it be a proper start to a San Diego based airline review without the morning sun burning my retinas? They don’t call it “Sun” Diego for nothin’.
Entrance to terminal 2 east San Diego international airport
Shoutout to the San Diego Airport Authority for shielding us from those deadly UV rays here at the entrance to Terminal 2 East.
Pushing a cart of luggage into the San Diego airport
Seems as if not everyone is a fan of all the sunshine though. “F**k this s**t! Pacific Northwest here I come!”
Alaska Airlines check-in and baggage drop terminal 2 east San Diego airport
This is the Alaska Airlines check-in area here in Terminal 2 East (I’ve already checked in online, so there’s no need for me to get any closer). Premium Class passengers don’t get their own dedicated check in line by the way.
Alaska airlines terminal San Diego airport
The worst part about flying Alaska Airlines in or out of San Diego? You’ll have to put up with the dated (and smelly) innards of Terminal 2 East.
Sanspotter sitting in terminal 2 east San Diego airport
You’ll also run the risk of having your retinas scorched (again) when the window shades aren’t fully closed (which is often).
Alaska airlines San Francisco giants livery 737-9 max
Woohoo! The 737 MAX 9 taking me to Washington Dulles today is wearing the San Francisco Giants livery. Not that I’m a huge fan of the Giants or anything, but it’s never not fun to fly on airplane with colorful stickers plastered all over it.

The boarding process for AS777 to Washington Dulles

Alaska Airlines Premium Class passengers board with Group B. Not only does that require waiting until Group A (first class) boards, it requires additional patience for letting active duty military, families traveling with small children, and Alaska Airlines Plutonium-Crusted Elite passengers to go first.

Alaska airlines Mobile boarding pass gate 24 San Diego airport
Things are starting to happen here at Gate 24! They aren’t very exciting things, but they are things nonetheless.

Looking around the gate area led me to believe that it was going to be a fairly full flight. Perhaps Alaska Airlines has been holding their own against United? Well, read on. What you’re about to see might be cause for some concern…

gate 24 San Diego airport
Other than the gate agents announcing an aircraft swap from a 737 to an A380, is there anything more thrilling to a frequent flyer (or AvGeek) than hearing your group being called for boarding?
Sanspotter walking down jet bridge to Alaska airlines flight
Given the fact that I just watched half of the plane board before me just now, I should probably figure out how to become active duty military before my next flight. Pumping out a few kids might not be a bad idea either.
Alaska airlines 737 max 9 boarding door
A quick check of my flight log reveals that this is going to be my 4h Boeing 737-9 MAX experience since last year. These things are popping up everywhere!
San Francisco Giants mascot livery sticker Alaska airlines 737-9 max
What the hell is that thing anyway? The “ta-daaa” pose (combined with how suspiciously overconfident he is about his lack of pants) is giving me the willies. No pun intended.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 first class
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 first class is good – but deadly. Let’s see if I can make it through the first class cabin without getting decapitated by these overhead bins…
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class
Premium Class (with slightly less deadly overhead bins).

A closer look at the Alaska 737 MAX 9 Premium Class seats

The simplest way to describe Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class is to say that it’s essentially economy class with extra legroom. Go ahead – call it premium economy if you want (especially since it comes with other perks such as free alcohol and priority boarding). Be warned though. The aviation community on social media is quick to correct annihilate anyone who refers to these seats as such. Tread carefully.

Row 9 premium class alaska airlines 737-9 Max
Row 9 is the last row of Premium Class here on the MAX 9 (I’ve got the window seat). Shoutout to the toddler sitting behind me who kicked my *** all the way the Dulles.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class under seat storage and leg room
Now that’s some serious leg room! It felt great, but I’m not gonna lie – as awesome as I thought this was, trading seats with the little monster sitting behind me did cross my mind. 
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class seats
It’s basically identical to United Airlines 737 MAX 9 Economy Plus. Minus the scent of Stroopwafels of course.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class seatback
Looks like we’ve got a USB power outlet, a personal device holder, a safety card (much appreciated on the MAX 9), and one heck of a tempting Alaska Airlines credit card offer. It’s basically everything one would need for a comfortable and safe flight across the country.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class power outlet
There’s even a full-size electrical outlet. Between this and the USB port that I just showed you, walking off this plane at IAD 5 hours from now with a nearly dead iPhone would be completely irresponsible of me.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class seat pitch
“This is nuts!” probably wasn’t the best thing to say out loud as I was taking this pic of the generous leg room (and apparently my junk).
SANspotter Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class
Pro tip: avoid the last row in Alaska Airlines 737-9 MAX Premium Class. They haven’t even finished the welcome announcement yet, and the kick I just felt from behind knocked a kidney loose I think.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class passengers
Boarding complete! The load factor in today’s flight looks to be around 60%, so I can either move away from the kicking or shut the hell up about it (and take it like a man).
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 pushing off the gate San Diego airport
Considering how much I’ve been looking forward to reviewing Alaska Airlines Premium Class, I guess I’ve got no choice but to be a man today (which may or may not involve kicking back). 

The departure

Call me lucky (and maybe a little weird while you’re at it), but I’ve never once had a horribly delayed flight with Alaska Airlines. Today was no exception considering that we pushed off the gate several minutes early – which I can only assume was because of the light load factor. This flight was maybe 60% full (or 40% empty depending on how pessimistic you are).

Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 SAN
Can you believe that we pushed off the gate 7 minutes early?
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class row 9 passengers
I ask again: CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT WE PUSHED OFF THE GATE 7 MINUTES EARLY?! Apparently I’m the only one on this airplane who cares about Alaska Airlines on-time performance metrics.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 taxi to runway San Diego airport
Oh well. It looks to be a beautiful morning for a flying, so I can’t be too upset about being the biggest dork onboard today.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 on runway San Diego airport
Here we go!
View of the San Diego international airport from an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9
I know it’s a little difficult to see because that big Leap-1B engine getting in the way, but the San Diego International Airport is looking as rad as ever.
Takeoff from the San Diego international airport in an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9
And yes, I do realize that you came here for a detailed review of the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class experience, so please have patience as I post another pic of the scenery. Is it wrong to be so proud of my hometown?
Flying over San Diego in an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9
Last one I promise!

In-flight entertainment

Let’s start with the bad news first (since there’s not much of it). Basically, there are no video screens in these seats. With that out of the way, I’m happy to report that Alaska Airlines offers an extremely robust streaming in-flight entertainment service. Not only does it contain over 800 individual movies, TV shows, and audio tracks (music and podcasts), it’s freaking fast. No buffering!

Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 premium class in-flight entertainment menu
This is the main menu for the free (streaming) entertainment and Wi-Fi options on this flight. They claim to have over 800 movies and TV shows on tap, but I’m lacking the motivation to verify the accuracy of that statement. There are limits to my nerdiness!

Like most US airlines these days, text messaging is free. You’re going to have to pay extra to access the Internet via Wi-Fi though.

Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 premium class in-flight entertainment movies
Here’s a sampling of that vast catalog of content.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 premium class streaming movies
It’s a surprisingly fast streaming service. Everything loaded instantly (with no buffering), to the point where I was almost tempted to see if they were bulls*****g about how much content they have. Almost.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 premium class streaming destination weather
Because I know there’s at least one of you who is just dying to know what’s the weather is forecasted to be upon arrival at IAD.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 premium class personal device holder
That same (oddly curious) person is also likely wondering why I was holding my phone instead of using this handy flip down device holder instead. This one’s for you!

The food situation

The main perk of Premium Class on Alaska Airlines is the free alcohol. Free non-alcoholic drinks and small snacks are also included, but you still have to pay extra for something off the menu. I recommend pre-paying for your selection several days before your flight via the Alaska Airlines app or website (just to be sure that you’ll get exactly what you want).

Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 premium class menu
Although free alcohol is one of the perks of Premium Class on Alaska Airlines, food (anything more substantial than a snack) is going to cost extra. Like “let’s test the limits of my credit line” kind of extra.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class free snack
The free snack on today’s flight is Biscoff cookies (which I saved to potentially bribe the toddler behind me). “You take your foot out of my a**, and I’ll give you these cookies. Deal?”
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class free drink
I chose a cup of water over the free alcoholic drink. In other words, the kicking wasn’t totally intolerable at this point.
Alaska Airlines Mediterranean Tapas Picnic Pack
Behold the $7.50 Mediterranean Tapas Picnic Pack. FYI, I only chose this because they were sold out of the fruit and cheese plate (which is always awesome on Alaska Airlines).
Sanspotter Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class purchased meal
“I guess if the cookies don’t work, the sharp corners on this box might send the right message.”
Contents of the Alaska Airlines Mediterranean Tapas Picnic Pack
The contents of this snack pack reveals that maybe $7.50 was a fair price to pay for it. It’s not often that I don’t feel like I got ripped off after paying for airline food!
Alaska Airlines Mediterranean Tapas Picnic Pack olives
Who at Alaska Airlines thought that a stinky bag of olives was a good idea? Apparently that person has never sat next to someone eating a stinky bag of olives on a flight before.
SANspoter eating in Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class
Then again, with an open seat to my right and no desire to impress the person sitting behind me, avoiding the olives was (maybe) the wrong decision.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class tray table drink holder
The drink holder built into the tray table was very much appreciated by the way.

Seat (and cabin) comfort

As someone of average height (5’-10”), I found the extra legroom to be pretty nice – but not a total game changer. I could cross my legs with ease, and it wasn’t all that difficult to stretch my legs out straight in order to keep the blood flowing. But since it was just a basic economy seat anyway, I can’t classify it as a totally luxurious experience.

Crossed legs in Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class
There is plenty of room to cross your legs in these seats if you’re under 6′ tall. And I wasn’t kidding about keeping the Biscoff cookies at the ready.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class seat recline
Seat recline isn’t all that great though. On the other hand, it’s pretty awesome if you’re on the receiving end of it.
SANspotter sleeping in Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class
A brief moment of peaceful solitude when mom took the little ones to the lavatory (to presumably let them kick the **** out of the toilet).
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 economy class cabin
The light load factor on today’s flight meant that I could’ve easily moved to a different seat if I wasn’t so hell-bent on doing a Premium Class review. These regular economy seats don’t look half bad actually.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 aft lavatory
Suck in that gut! The aft lavatories here on the Alaska 737 MAX 9 don’t allow much room for maneuvering (or kicking).

The descent (and landing) at IAD

Did I miss an important press release or something? Since when did Washington DC change its name to “Gloom City”? It was basically clouds and fog all the way in, which was admittedly slightly better than what the captain had predicted 4 hours prior. He made it sound like we were headed straight into a hurricane or something. Anyway, despite the early departure out of San Diego, we arrived in Washington DC 4 minutes late.

Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 premium class pre-landing snack
The pre-landing snack. The only other time that I’ve been served braided pretzels on a flight was during my Sun Country 737-800 Best Seat experience, and let me tell ya – those pretzels kicked the **** out of these.
Scenery during the descent into IAD Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9
The scenery was also much better on that Sun Country flight, so (for the moment) SY>AS.
Landing at Washington Dulles airport Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9
Technically, it wouldn’t be wrong of me to welcome you to Washington DC at this very moment. Realistically, we’re still a good 26 miles away from the city, so it’s a bit premature for the cheery greetings.
IAD terminal and mobile people movers
I don’t believe I’ve ever taken a more “IAD” picture in my entire life.
Concourse B international airlines Washington Dulles airport
Here’s a nice view of the international lineup at Concourse B as we mosey on up to the gate. Nice!
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class arrival at the gate Washington Dulles airport
That moment at the end of the flight when you accidentally make eye contact with mom (in the row behind you) and can’t help but to say something stupid like “oh it was no problem at all – I barely felt anything!” I’ve told some lies to avoid awkward situations in my life, but that may be the biggest one yet.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class seat pitch
One last look at the generous leg room here in Premium Class as I make my escape from her demon spawn.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 boarding door frame
No! Despite what this looks like, the guys in the orange vests standing at the door are not there to take your bags.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 parked at gate B65 Washington Dulles airport
And that’s a wrap! Thanks for coming along with me on Alaska Airlines flight number 777 from San Diego to Washington Dulles. Yes, a full review of United’s retaliation is coming next…

Pros and cons of the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Premium Class experience

If I’m being honest, I would have to think really hard about choosing Premium Class over regular economy on my next Alaska Airlines flight. I rarely drink, so the free alcohol doesn’t really matter. I’m also not tall enough to fully appreciate the extra legroom. It was nice though. Hopefully the following pros and cons can help you decide if it’s right for you or not:

Pros

  • The extra legroom is something that most people are likely to appreciate (especially the ones over 6 feet tall).
  • Free beer! And wine, and whiskey, and gin, and scotch…(I think you get the idea).
  • The Boeing 737 MAX 9 is a long aircraft, so being able to sit near the front (thus allowing you to be one of the first off upon arrival at your destination) it’s a pretty nice perk.

Cons

  • Bring a credit card, because the food (other than a small snack) ain’t free.
  • The seats are exactly the same as the regular economy seats (firm, narrow, and uncomfortable on longer flights). Then again, maybe much of this discomfort can be offset by the free alcohol? Just thinkin’ out loud…

Comments (14)

  1. Luca

    September 10, 2023
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      September 10, 2023
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    September 10, 2023
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      September 10, 2023
  3. William

    September 11, 2023
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      September 11, 2023
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    September 13, 2023
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    September 14, 2023
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      September 15, 2023
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    September 18, 2023
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      September 18, 2023
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        September 24, 2023

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