KUDOS: Alaska Airlines

In the 17 years I lived away from the Pacific Northwest, I rarely had the opportunity to fly Alaska Airlines. I’d forgotten how much I was missing.

Make no mistake: Alaska (NYSE:ALK) has, in part, succumbed to the pressures facing all players in the airline industry: high fuel prices and fierce price competition are just two of those factors. But, unlike other carriers I have flown recently, Alaska still handles things with aplomb.

On my recent flight from SEA to DCA, I experienced many examples of Alaska’s excellent customer service.

The first aircraft we boarded had problems with the door seal. While the flight crew wasn’t specific, they didn’t need to be. My fellow passengers and I clearly understood that a door seal is not something you want to fail at 35,000 feet. If a delay was in our future, so be it. It beat the alternative.

But the airline had plans to deal with this contingency and, more importantly, the equipment necessary to make that plan a reality. (To quote Hannibal Smith of The A Team, “I LOVE it when a plan comes together!”) As soon as the crew realized it was not going to be a quick fix, they transferred us to another aircraft and off we went.

Certainly, our departure was delayed - by about an hour, as it turned out - but it could have been much longer if the airline a) hadn’t had Alaska’s laser focus on customer service, and/or b) didn’t have an available 737-800 just two gates down the concourse.

Once in the air, the flight crew did what they could to make up the delay (and make the best use of the jet stream that flows to the east) while the cabin crew took care of our slightly ruffled feathers. Unlike flight attendants at so many carriers these days, Alaska’s actually talk with the passengers, and not just, “Do you want something from the beverage cart?” A refreshing change from the norm.

Perhaps my positive mood is due, in part, to those flight attendants who bought me two glasses of wine. I was in an easy-going frame of mind and not raising any kind of fuss; they just seemed to be in a generous mood.

No announcement was made that drinks would be free because of the delay; they just were. At least mine were.

When I asked why they’d been so accommodating, they really had no explanation. But that’s OK. I’ll take it. And I’ll be taking Alaska much more in the future.

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