Family Trip to Kauai: Alaska Airlines First Class Trip Review

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I can’t even think about my recent trip to the Hawaiian island of Kauai without smiling, so I am skipping ahead in my trip reviews and doing this one before some of the others. It was just too much fun to not share it now. If you don’t want to read anything else, then just read this…Hawaii is far, but Hawaii is worth it. Even my three year old daughter asked me why we were leaving on the day of our departure. The best answer I could muster was that our tickets say we have to leave today, so we have to leave. We both wanted to stay, and we both very much want to return.

To get to Hawaii we took advantage of a now defunct deal through Iceland Air to fly on Alaska Airlines. It cost roughly $300 to purchase the points needed for each ticket to fly round trip to Hawaii from cities served by Alaska. We were originally booked to fly San Jose – Lihue on a direct flight. However, there was a schedule change that eliminated the direct flight on the date of our outbound travel, so we were changed to fly from San Jose – Seattle – Lihue. This meant a very early departure from San Jose, and many more hours of travel. It was very, very far from ideal (especially traveling alone with a 3 year old), but there was no other real solution given that our positioning flights to San Jose were already booked and our dates were set.


The seats in first class on Alaska Airlines are designed in a 2-2 set-up as opposed to coach where there are 3-3, so you do certainly have more room in a first class seat.  Of course these are not the fancy “lie flat” type of seats, but they weren’t bad, and were certainly an upgrade over coach.  When traveling alone with a kid it is also nice to know that there won’t be a “stranger” seated next to you and your child the way there likely would be in coach.



On our first morning flight from San Jose to Seattle they served some yogurt with granola and berries that I enjoyed much more than the standard strawberry flavored yogurt I have eaten on United.  This was actually pretty good!


On the flight from Seattle to Lihue there were menus waiting for us in our seats that displayed our food selections for the flight.  It made the flight seem a little more exciting and luxurious – it’s the little things. 


They offered some Hawaiian themed juices and drinks, which we happily accepted.  Sitting in first class really does help keep the little ones better hydrated as there are frequent refills on water, juice, etc. that are offered.  Of course, that means more trips to the lavatory, but still helps in keeping away some of the dehydration that can come from flying longer flights.


The meals were served within the first hour of the flight, and the appetizer of thai chicken lettuce wraps was actually pretty good.  I should have just eaten the wraps served to my daughter and myself and been done with it.


The pork chop and the pineapple glazed chicken breast entrees were both okay, but not my favorite.  The sides especially were not award winning.  But, it’s airplane food, so it’s not that big of a deal if it isn’t award winning.  It is just nice to be served something that helps pass the time.



The big highlight of the meal service was undoubtedly the ice cream!  My daughter was so incredibly excited to be served ice cream on an airplane.  She actually had fallen asleep before the ice cream was served, so I asked if they could save her one and they said that wasn’t possible.  So it just sat on my tray table for quite a while, and by the time she woke up and ate it it was more liquid than ice cream, but she didn’t care.

20130702-141130.jpgFlight Experience:

After the meal service, the cabin was dimmed and thankfully that was perfect for a quick nap.  We found most of the flight attendants to be very courteous and helpful (though there was one total stinker on the return flight), and the flight was enjoyable.


They don’t have on-board TV screens or built-in entertainment systems, but they do hand out these Digi Players complimentary for those in first class ($10 to rent in economy).  They have a decent selection of new and older movies, TV shows, and music.  We found their cartoon selection to be large enough for one five hour flight, but she ran out of things to watch on the flight home.  They are a bit heavy for their size, but we managed okay by having her hold it a while and then propped it up on the tray.

I will also add that we got zero nasty looks or comments having a young child in first class to Hawaii (that I noticed).  Pretty much everyone was in a great mood and no one seemed bothered by her presence…though it certainly helped that she wasn’t loud until the flight was on final approach and she was doing cheers that we were in Hawaii.


After a meal, a nap, and some cartoons, we arrived to our final destination of Kauai!  The flight from the West Coast really isn’t that bad at all.  It would be totally tolerable in coach, but was even a bit better in first.

20130702-141141.jpgYou Can Do it Too:

While the method of purchasing Icelandair miles to redeem for Alaska flights is no longer available, there are still lots of easy ways for you to do this yourself.  Generally speaking, I recommend reading my series on Hawaii to get an idea of all the options out there to redeem miles and points to get to the islands.  However, if you specifically want to fly on Alaska Airlines from the West Coast your best bet is likely to earn British Airways Avios points as round trip flights in economy on Alaska are just 25,000 points from the West Coast.  First class would cost you 75,000 points using Avios, which isn’t near as good of a deal.  You can get 50,000 Avios quickly and easily by getting the British Airways Visa Signature® Card and spending $1,000 in the first three months ($95 annual fee).  That would earn you two round trip economy tickets from the West Coast in no time.

You can also get the Alaska Airlines card from Bank of America that awards up to 30,000 bonus points ($75 annual fee), but you may get approved for a lesser version of the card with a lesser bonus.  With Alaska economy round trip flights to Hawaii start at 40,000 miles, and first class starts at 75,000 miles round trip.  You can also transfer miles into Alaska from the Starwood Preferred Guest program at a rate of 25,000 miles for 20,000 SPG points if you needed to top off to an award level.  Alaska also partners with American and Delta, so those are also both redemption options for Alaska operated flights to Hawaii.

If the deal hadn’t been so sweet for first, I would have had no problem booking us in coach for the five hour flight.  How you get to Hawaii doesn’t really matter once you get there.  It is paradise.

Stay tuned for posts on the Grand Hyatt Kauai and some of the awesome adventures we had while in Kauai!


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  1. Alaska runs a classy operation, which is why we switched to them last year from United. They are so much nicer to families.

    We’ve flown with out little boy (now 17 months) all over the world in First, Business, and yes, even coach. I agree with the previous commenter- you definitely get more dirty looks in the back of the bus.

  2. What a fun trip report! Can’t wait to read the rest of it – please post soon! 🙂 By the way, why couldn’t the flight attendant save an ice cream for Little C? Seems like an easy enough thing to do, especially in First Class…

  3. We flew in first on Alaska to Hawaii from Orlando. We took advantage of the (now extinct to use for first class seats) companion fare voucher from the Alaskan credit card. I would agree that seats were definitely more comfortable than coach and the service was pleasant. As we were connecting from the east coast, we appreciated this with the two long flights. Our food was ok. Not international first quality but better than most other domestic flights. One of our digiplayers were broken. I had read online to check when they hand them out. If you wait until you want to use it, they might be all out and then you are stuck with nothing. Looking forward to the rest of the reviews.

  4. My flight experience from SAN to HNL sounds very similar to yours. The digi players are very cool. Finally got to watch Wreck It Ralph (I’m 23, not 3) but thought it was well made. Glad you and C enjoyed the flight.

  5. We just got back to the bay area from Kauai yesterday. Our kids loved the island and asked when we could come back before we even left the place. We have always loved flying Alaska, whether to Vancouver or Mexico, we prefer them than United. For Hawaii, we are so lucky to have both Alaska and Hawaiian Air to choose from so we always avoid United. 🙂

  6. Great report, look forward to reading more. My wife and I are flying to Kauai next Match/April, by AA F. To all of you Hawaii experts, a few questions: (1) Our schedule is, we can leave on a Thursday, must return Tuesday. Ignoring travel days, that is 4 full days there. Is that enough for a meaningful trip, or should we wait for a better opportunity? (1) In March 15 – May 15 frame, what is the best time for weather, scenery and prices? Thanks!

  7. Just curious about how you are going to continue to travel once your daughter goes to school. We love to travel and took our daughter everywhere with us on points and great deals. Then kindergarten happened last year! When you are not as flexible in times and dates the prices and points went way up! We pulled her from school for a week in Feb for a vacation outside of school breaks but do not feel we can dot that very often. Any tips or ideas in this situation? Thanks!

  8. -Sorry for being behind on comments (on a family trip), but thanks everyone for weighing in!
    -Jenny, I’m not sure why they couldn’t save her ice cream…I guess it is a one-way straight. Ice cream comes out and not back in. 😉
    AKTCHI, I am notorious for short trips, so I think you can enjoy an island in that time. You won’t see everything for sure, but you can still have a good trip. Your call on whether you want to wait until you can stay longer. Either way, I bet you will want to go back!
    Amy, this trip was actually early June, so could have been done even if she was in school. I’m on a trip now in North Carolina with her during the summer. Our ski trip in March was over spring break. So, we are already kind of adjusting to a school schedule since she is on one. Of course we do miss days here and there now since it is just pre-school, but if you book early and are flexible somewhat with destinations it is still not too bad. Take a long weekend here and there to visit things that are too crowded in the summer, and otherwise just choose destinations that you can enjoy when she is out of school.

  9. I really enjoyed reading how much of an impact Hawaii had on C and you. Now you understand why it also had such a tremendous impact on our family!

  10. Hello MP – Nice report! I also loved Kauai when I visited a few years back. I had one question in regards to Alaska Airlines. What is the best way to extend the miles that are about to expire (in Sept) if one does not have an e-miles or e-rewards account or an Alaska credit card and do not have any plans to fly before the expiration date? Thanks for your advice!

  11. Sorry for the huge comment revival, but because AS only has 2 classes, avios still charges AS First as a first class redemption for 37.5K to Hawaii??

  12. I think you would find Hawaiian Airlines’ widebody aircraft far more comfortable than a 737 for a five hour flight. Having done both, I would avoid the 737 at all costs going forward.

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