John Brand flies aboard Alaska Airlines flight ASA892, from Honolulu to San Diego.

The plane:

A 737-800.

Class: Economy, but "Extra Comfort". What made my seat "Extra Comfort" was that with no hard partition between Business and Economy (only a curtain) it allowed extra leg room. You also stared at a curtain inches away from your face.


Price: Bundled.

Flight time: We were scheduled for 5hr 36m, and had on-time departure and arrival, but jetway problems in San Diego delayed us getting off the plane.

My seat: 6B, in the middle seat just behind Business Class. Economy had a 3-3 configuration.

Fellow passengers: Mostly American tourists returning to the mainland.

How full: Jammed, like a rush-hour bus. Despite being a daylight flight, all the window shades were down. It was a sombre environment.

Entertainment: Rental iPads with entertainment pre-loaded. I passed.

The service: The cabin crew made the effort to be friendly but I got the sense it was a heavy load to bear day after day. I also seemed that they had to deal with a lot of tired, grumpy people going home.

Food and drink: Food for purchase, rudimentary. Snacks were good. I had beef jerky and local potato chips. I ate lunch in Honolulu Airport during the connection from Auckland, knowing the airline food was not included in the fare.


The toilets: Worked.

Luggage: As I was connecting from Hawaiian Airlines they honoured the generous 2x23kg bag allowance. I had one much smaller bag.

The airport experience: Honolulu has expanded again in the past couple of years. Still a very pleasant airport but with growth comes increasingly long walks to and from gates.

I picked up a rental car in San Diego at a new centralised multi-storied hub with all agencies. It was larger than a lot of regional airports, all indoors. Very efficient, with one common, shared shuttle bus service on private airport roads. A model for everywhere.

The bottom line: Alaska Airlines is a regional US carrier that, with deregulation, has expanded beyond its original territory, hence flying from Honolulu to San Diego. It has positioned itself as a low-cost carrier and charges for most items — including meals — as add-ons. Unlike Hawaiian Airlines' efforts to grow into a long-haul carrier from an inter-island carrier, Alaska Airlines is an economy bus.

Would I fly it again? Sure, but it was a weak sister on the run compared to my return leg on Hawaiian going home.