We try to do a summer vacation with my parents along with my brother and his family once a year if we can. After looking at a lot of different places this year ranging from Cabo to Canada, we settled on Bend, Oregon. None of us had ever been there before, and it sounded like a good time. I figured flights would be easy to find, but they surprisingly weren’t. In the end, Alaska got us there and back with no real fuss. That’s how I like it.
The flight times to Redmond/Bend leave a lot to be desired. There are two flights from LAX… and they leave within 5 minutes of each other in the mid-afternoon. (Avelo also flies from Burbank some days but with an impossibly-early 7am departure.) Alaska was a lot cheaper than the United Express flight, so that was a no-brainer at $128.90 each.
Knowing Alaska is getting rid of airport kiosk check-in, I decided to put the app to the test. It passed with flying colors. I paid for bags, got us checked in, and I could add the boarding passes to my Google Wallet. I had no issues whatsoever.
On the day of travel, we tried to get a Lyft at 1:15pm, but after Lyft switched drivers on us, we didn’t leave until after 1:30pm. I was a little nervous since you never know how long you’ll be stuck in the horseshoe at LAX, but we made it an hour before departure and the airport wasn’t very busy.
We went to a very slow kiosk to print our bag tags. I can see why they want to get rid of those things. But it worked eventually, and we got in line to dump the bags. It took no more than 10 minutes all-in. It used to be once you checked a bag, there was an escalator up to security right behind the Alaska counter, but that’s now gone. You have to walk over to the middle of the terminal to get to the security checkpoint which was completely empty.
I like to play a game in Terminal 6 called “what are they rebuilding now?” Because every time I walk in that terminal, it’s something different. This time, the rotunda is open at the end (unlike last year when I flew out on Air Canada), but the gates on the west side are mostly closed.
We sat down just as the flight seemed to have pulled up to the gate, but then I noticed that the jet bridge was not moving. I have no idea what happened, but it took well over 10 more minutes before the jet bridge finally pulled up.
It was madness in the terminal. The sound system is horrible in there, with all gates making noise but none actually being intelligible. It was pretty clear, however, that we would be late when they hadn’t started boading our Boeing 737-900ER twenty minutes before departure.
Once they started boarding, it went pretty quickly. We were in group D, and when we boarded, I enjoyed the brief respite from the cacophony of the terminal as we walked down the jet bridge.
August 5, 2023
From Los Angeles
➤ Scheduled Departure: 315p
➤ Actual Departure: 324p
➤ From Gate: 67
➤ Wheels Up: 334p
➤ From Runway: 25R
➤ Wheels Down: 511p
➤ On Runway: 29
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 545p
➤ Actual Arrival: 517p
➤ At Gate: B
➤ Type: Boeing 737-990ER
➤ Delivered: November 3, 2016
➤ Registered: N266AK, msn 62683
➤ Livery: Eskimo with Green
➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 23B
➤ Load: ~95% Full
➤ Flight Time: 1h37m
A friendly flight attendant was there greeting us as we boarded. We walked back to our seats and found there to be plenty of room in the overhead bins. The mood lighting was a nice touch.
This flight looked a lot like a flight to Utah… it was full of very large families. At least one kid was screaming for much of the flight, but I’m pretty sure it was never the same one each time.
We pushed back only nine minutes late and had a remarkably fast 10 minute taxi before we were in the air. On a Saturday afternoon, this flight is blocked longer than it needs to be.
We made a hard right turn, went over the Central Valley, and then the service started. The flight attendants came through with really tasty pretzels, and I had a ginger ale. I love that they give you a mini can now along with a paper cup.
As a T-Mobile customer, I tried to log on for my free hour of wifi. A speed test showed up to 60 MB download speeds, but it kept cutting in and out as I tried to stream the pregame show for the Diamondbacks game. I gave up.
Meanwhile, out the window, we were passing stunning scenery. The Sierra Nevada passed quietly beneath us with some of the peaks still topped snow. We then dipped into Nevada and had a postcard view of Lake Tahoe on the left side.
Soon after that, the view disappeared as billowy clouds got in the way. Once we got into Oregon, the descent began. The flight attendants were told to clean up early because, as the flight attendant announced, we were going to be passing near some thunderstorms.
Sure enough, that was an accurate description as we bobbed and weaved our way around isolated storms as we made our way down. It wasn’t particularly bumpy, but better safe than sorry, I suppose.
Once we got below the lowest cloud layer, I was a little saddened to find it very hazy with limited visibility. I’d never been to Bend before, so I was looking forward to a sweeping view of where the desert and mountains meet. But instead we just had limited views of volcanic cones and crops as we bounced our way down to the runway.
On the ground, it was a short taxi to the terminal. All gates use stairs/ramps, and we hung back to the end so my son could take a look at the cockpit.
Once off, we had to walk down a long corridor that kind of reminds me of the old Salt Lake City regional gates but nicer.
We went to claim our bags, and man, it was crazy in there. I guess that’s what happens when about 250 people arrive at the same time between the Alaska and United flights.
The bags did not come out in 20 minutes as guaranteed by the airline, but we couldn’t find the baggage service office, and the ticket counter line was long. I instead DMd Alaska via Twitter, er, uh, X, and they said that normally you do have to talk to someone at the airport, but they would make an exception in this case to award the 2,500 miles for the slow bag delivery. I appreciated that.
For our return, we had originally planned to fly back from Redmond/Bend, but that flight schedule is downright awful. The first flight back isn’t until after 6pm, even including Avelo to Burbank, so we had looked at connections. But then… an idea. My parents were going to take our kids back with them to Arizona, and then my wife and I could spend a weekend by ourselves.
We decided to go up to Portland for a couple days since she had never been. Then we’d fly back on Alaska. We bought the 3:45pm flight home for $268.90, but the price dropped so we were able to get a $100 credit back for future travel.
A few days before, our flight was apparently a little too full. Alaska sent out a note saying that we could change for free to a variety of flights, including some as late as two days after we had planned AND we’d get a $25 credit each for making the move.
We didn’t take the offer, though on Sunday we realized we should have just moved up to the 12:25pm since we were ready to be home. By then, however, it was too late.
We dumped our rental car off and walked through the underground tunnel into the ticketing area. I already wrote about the new bag drop process. After dumping the bag, we wandered to security where there was almost no line at TSA Precheck, but the people in it seemed to be inexperienced and slow.
On the other side, I realized that Portland is really doing a LOT of construction. You can no longer turn right to go to the C gates. Instead, you have to go left to B and then there’s a new hamster tube that goes around to put you into C. This appears to be a huge project that is renovating the entire shopping mall area that goes between B/C and D/E on opposite sides of the airport.
Our gate was one of the first gates still operating in C, but we had some time to kill so we wandered. Wow, for a Sunday afternoon, those C gates were very empty. This airport is far from recovered from the pandemic. I keep wondering if anyone is going to try and give Alaska a run for its money there.
I did get a pleasant surprise when I saw a beach towel out the window. (I really like Condor’s new livery.)
Back at the gate, we sat around waiting for boarding. This time we were on a 737-800 with the old bins, so the agents were desperately trying to find exactly 18 people to volunteer to check their bags at the gate for free. As a reward, they’d get to board early in Group C. I have no idea why this is a reward. If I have no need for bin space, why would I be excited about boarding early?
We were in Group D and boarded toward the end of the group. This was a bad idea. The temperature in Portland was sitting around 100 degrees, and the jet bridge felt every bit of that and more. Since we boarded toward the back of the group, the thing was backed up more than halfway, so we just sat and sweated it out.
August 13, 2023
➤ Scheduled Departure: 345p
➤ Actual Departure: 350p
➤ From Gate: C7
➤ Wheels Up: 359p
➤ From Runway: 28L
To Los Angeles
➤ Wheels Down: 557p
➤ On Runway: 24R
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 610p
➤ Actual Arrival: 606p
➤ At Gate: 69A
➤ Type: Boeing 737-890
➤ Delivered: November 9, 2006
➤ Registered: N562AS, msn 35091
➤ Livery: Eskimo with Green
➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 22A
➤ Load: ~99% Full
➤ Flight Time: 1h58m
Once we got into the airplane, it felt like a cool paradise… which is funny because it was actually still hot in there. It was just a lot less hot than the jet bridge. Maybe it was so hot onboard because we were next to this smoke show:
We took our seats back in row 22. I had been listening to the Diamondbacks game, and they took a 1-run lead in the 8th over the Padres just when it was time to leave. Oh great.
So what did I do? Well, T-Mobile apparently now offers 4 full-flight wifi passes each year on participating airlines. (There are still unlimited 1-hour passes.) I decided to use one of mine on this flight, and it worked on the ground, so I didn’t miss a beat.
We taxied out and I could see empty gate after empty gate in C. Plenty of room on a Sunday afternoon.
We spent a lot of time going down the runway before finally generating enough lift to tiptoe into the sweltering air. It wasn’t long until the Diamondbacks sealed the win. This was the best possible use of wifi onboard.
After departing to the west, we turned left and went over Salem and Eugene before turning more inland on our way to LA. As we passed over Southern Oregon, I could see a lot of smoke and haze from surrounding fires. The flight attendants came through with drinks and pretzels.
After passing over Redding, I saw the clouds start to appear. The monsoon had taken a westward turn and towering storms were over the Sierras. We stayed to the west and watched the clouds slip below us as we cruised at 37,000 feet.
At 45 minutes out, the crew did the credit card pitch. Just like on my last flight with American, this Alaska crew insisted that people had been asking them about the card, so they were happy to tell us about it. Gimme a break….
We descended into LA on a strange day. The nearby mountains had storms overhead while the coast had the marine layer starting to creep in. The sky was unusually clear for a hot summer day, and it made for a really scenic descent as the sun sunk closer to the ocean’s edge. Here you can see Dodger Stadium and downtown.
We landed on the north side of the airport, but then we taxied around to Terminal 6 where we parked at 69A. This time, our bag was already on the belt by the time we got there, so there would be no free miles.
Overall, Alaska did a perfectly fine job. I mean that in the best way possible.