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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Nicon Andritsakis

From Peachtree to North Island: Alaska Airlines from Atlanta, GA to San Diego, CA.





Cue Whitesnake!


Here I go again...on my inaugural flight kick. This one is good, finally connecting Atlanta to San Diego with Alaska Airlines, making it the 37th nonstop destination out of San Diego, right now the most out of any carrier serving Lindbergh Field (I wouldn't call SAN a hub for Alaska just yet, but a really big focus city. I'd LOVE to see it become at least a mini-hub.).




A Key Transcontinental Route


Various airlines have served San Diego directly from Atlanta since the early 1960's (either with nonstop, direct, or through-plane services), and usually, an add-on to and from Los Angeles was added to the offerings. The route has seen everything from Douglas DC-8s, Lockheed L-1011s, Boeing 727s, 757s, Airbus A300s, etc right up to today's typical Boeing 737s and the Airbus A320 family.


Both cities are major economic drivers. Atlanta has a massive corporate presence with several Fortune 500 companies based there. San Diego has a huge military and government presence, with the US Navy, US Marine Corps, and US Customs and Border Protection being the largest entities.


Until now, Atlanta was one of the biggest transcontinental city pairs Alaska Airlines did not serve. Slowly but surely, the airline is filling in big gaps in the map from San Diego, turning it from a good-sized focus city into an unofficial mini-hub. The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority even granted Alaska a 10-year contract to operate an Alaska Lounge at Lindbergh Field as of December 2023. It will take over the current Aspire Lounge location in Terminal 2, just beyond the TSA checkpoint. This will definitely help solidify the airline in San Diego a bit more.


Service began May 16, 2024


As most inaugural flights go, the airline and invited dignitaries want everything to go off without a hitch. For the most part, everything on this flight did, same for the inbound flight. Now, I was already in Atlanta from the day before and made it a point to get to the gate early and see what was going on and if the gate crew needed help setting anything up. Luckily, one of my closest friends kidnapped me for our ritual Waffle House breakfast and airport drop-off. Once inside the terminal, I checked in (Alaska's counter is in a really dingy part of the terminal, scrunched between the counters for Frontier and Spirit.), got myself pushed out to the gate and hung around while the Seattle outbound pushed back from the gate. Not more than 35 minutes later, the inbound from San Diego, the 7-month-old Boeing 737 MAX 9 N955AK pulls into the gate, a full 36 minutes early. This gave the ground crew a bit more time to unload the inbound inaugural and get the return flight set up for departure.


As far as inaugural flight festivities go, this one was decidedly low-key. Chocolates were handed out at the ticket counters, and signage was put up at the gate, but that's about it. A far cry from the inaugurals I've witnessed at other stations like Las Vegas, Everett, New York/JFK, Honolulu, and Anchorage.


Departure


Boarding commenced and since I was in a wheelchair, I was boarded first and took my seat in First Class, 3A on the port side. I settled in and was welcomed aboard by the stellar inflight crew with a pre-departure mimosa. Boarding didn't take too long, and even though the plane was pretty full, we pushed back right on time. No speeches by the crew except for a brief mention this was the first flight to San Diego, and we made our way out to the departure runway and before we knew it, we were airborne and on our way westward.


Not long after we hit cruising altitude, service began, and my dinner on this flight was the Tillamook Burger. Not bad at all, one of the better inflight burgers I've ever tasted (almost right up there with the burgers Continental Airlines used to serve as a snack on their long-hauls westbound from Europe to the US), same goes for the raspberry cheesecake dessert. I'm not much of a cheesecake guy, but this was delicious. Once my tray was clear, the Flight Attendant came over with another Ginger Ale and I put my headphones on and napped the rest of the way to San Diego (just under 4 hours).


Approach into San Diego is always a thrill. Coming down Bankers Hill is jaw-dropping and sometimes you feel you can just reach out and touch those buildings zooming past as you drop in on Lindbergh Field. One thing that shocked me was the big cavity of flat and clear land where the Commuter Terminal was. For any of us who grew up with PSA and their smiling airliners, this is a heart-wrenching thing as that building, before it was the Commuter Terminal, was PSA's General Offices right up to their take over by USAir in 1988. After digging into what happened, it turns out the building was demolished to make way for a new and badly needed extension of Terminal 1. I guess you can say Alaska is almost copying PSA's footprint of routes out of San Diego by looking at their route map.


In Conclusion


I seriously hope Alaska keeps this route year-round and adds frequency. It wouldn't be difficult at all for the bigger Goliath based in Atlanta to throw a couple of aging, decrepit 767's on the route just to dump capacity and destroy any yields the route gives for Alaska. I wish Alaska all the best on this route and have driven over a dozen traveling groups onto the route since this first flight instead of sending them over to Delta.




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1 Comment


alexpataffio
Jun 13

Cue Whitesnake! Thank you, as always, for keeping us up-to-date. I love these! Keep ‘em comin’!

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