Flight Log of Alaska Airlines Flight 1 and 121 from Washington DC to Anchorage via Seattle

A late summer trip to America’s last frontier. The outbound flights spanned an entire day, with me spending the few hours of layover at Space Needle in Seattle. In addition, this post will focus on the summits and glaciers along the way that kicked off my trip.

Mount Rainier


Mount Rainier

Ticketing

The wilderness of Alaska had long been on my travel bucket list. Even more so for some of my friends. This year, due to COVID, there had been plenty of award flight spaces to/from Alaska. So in early May, we booked American Airlines’ 10k per one-way web special award in late August between Washington DC and Anchorage, looking to spend about a week exploring the touristy-Alaska, which consisted of Seward and Denali.
After that, things had changed and COVID had become more prevalent in Alaska, leading some of my friends to cancel the trip. And about 2 weeks before our trip (The timing couldn’t be any better as the promotion required 14-day advance purchase.), Alaska Airlines started a buy-one-get-one-free promotion to boost load factors. Best part of the promotion was that it didn’t raise “original” prices before discount, and it applied to almost all routes within its network. At the time, one-way fare between Washington DC and Anchorage was already at an unbelievable 145 dollars. So, without much hesitation, we snatched this set of ticket. (American Airlines waived award redeposition fee during COVID.)

By the way, one would earn at least 3777 Alaska Airlines miles for such a one-way flight averaging 80 dollars per person. It would be a rather tempting mileage run route if not for COVID.

Testing Requirement

As of August 2020, the State of Alaska required out-of-state visitors to get a PCR COVID-19 test “within 72 hours of their departure to Alaska” and showed negative result upon arrival to avoid any kind of quarantine.
Our flight to Seattle departed at 8am EST, and the flight to Anchorage at 1:50pm EST. Out of abundance of caution, we took the test at about 3pm on August 19, past the second departure time. Our test result only had “sample taken date” of August 19, without a specific time, but the health screener at Anchorage Airport seemed okay with this and waived us okay without asking any additional questions.

AS1 to Seattle

So on the morning of August 19, we took an Uber to Washington Reagan National Airport. The check-in and security screening went smoothly. Without much sitting around, we were boarded.

Alaska Airlines A321neo in Special Livery


Alaska Airlines A321neo in Special Livery

Alaska Airlines liked to send 321neo to Reagan National Airport. This plane’s heading for Los Angeles. As much as I’d like to fly in one of these special liveries, it’s a standard one serving our flight to Seattle for the day.

The flight to Seattle was about half-full with a few empty rows. Alaska Airlines had been blocking middle seats in times of low load.

Legroom of Seat 27A


Legroom of Seat 27A

The promotion applied to standard economy, which came with free seat selection. This was arguably the best “standard” economy seat of the entire plane. Due to a nearby emergency exit, there was no seat in front, resulting in such ample legroom.

Soon after that we had a perfectly on-time takeoff.
Here’s GPS tracking:

Water Treatment Plant

 National Harbor
Water Treatment Plant / National Harbor

Phone/Tablet Holder


Phone/Tablet Holder

A nice feature of seats onboard Alaska Airlines was the seat-back tablet/phone holder. With no seat in front of me I wasn’t expecting that, until I discovered this folding tray table offered a substitute.

There wasn’t much to talk about the flight, except that Alaska Airlines were offering a single round of drink service. I thought cabin services went extinct in times of COVID.

Flying over Indianapolis


Flying over Indianapolis

Indianapolis Motor Speedway


Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Overlooking this temple of speed, cropped to 240mm equivalent.

Sadly, throughout most of the flight I was battling against a non-cooperative stomach. Hot water seemed to help, but unfortunately, the onboard bathrooms seemed rather dirty from such a long flight. (Related to COVID or not, it seemed that bathroom cleaning were never the flight attendants’ duty.)

We took a southern route flying across the continent, and didn’t turn for Seattle until a-third of the way into Oregon. This meant during descent, we were given a tour of the various soaring mountains in the pacific northwest.

Farmland by Columbia River

 Farmland by Columbia River
Farmland by Columbia River

Mount Adams


Mount Adams

Rimrock Lake


Rimrock Lake

Mount Rainier


Mount Rainier

Array of Mountains


Array of Mountains

Goat Rocks in the foreground, Mt Adams and Mt Hood in line extending to the horizon. Peak of Mt Jefferson, which is more than 250km away, also visible piercing through the clouds.

The climax of the descent was certainly Mount Rainier, Washington State’s tallest mountain. At times, we were only 30km from the peak.

Mount Rainier


Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier

It’s an exciting sight we wouldn’t be able to see again as scatter clouds covered some of Seattle’s skyline for the day.

Overlooking Seattle Airport


Overlooking Seattle Airport

Downtown Bellevue


Downtown Bellevue

Husky Stadium of University of Washington


Husky Stadium of University of Washington

Boeing Field


Boeing Field
With its array of parked 737 MAXs.

Probably due to strong headwind, we didn’t arrive at Seattle much earlier than scheduled. Once we landed, we took the light rail downtown.

Seattle Space Needle

Unfortunately, to get such a low fare, we would have to have a long connection in Seattle as earlier departures to Anchorage were sold at a premium. We decided to use our 6.4 hour connection to visit downtown Seattle, have a lunch, and tour its iconic Space Needle.

It felt surreal as we stepped out of tram station in downtown Seattle connecting onto a bus. All the storefronts were boarded up, and if protestors hadn’t occupied those blocks, the homeless certainly creeped into the shadows cast by vacant skyscrapers. Yet just a few blocks down the road near Space Needle, it’s a different scene, of street performers and picnic blankets, of lush meadow under blue sky. It’s like the urban vibe could only survive in the light.

By the time we reached the foot of Space Needle, it was 3pm eastern time, long after our breakfast and we were both starving. We found this Thai restaurant open and empty(!), so we had a sit-down meal.

Lunch


Lunch

Everything tasted great while hungry, like this meal. And among the very few restaurants we dined in during our trip, this one was most COVID-friendly: just opened for the day and completely empty during our visit.

After lunch, we visited nearby Space Needle. Built to house a revolving restaurant for 1962’s World Fair, it’s now the icon of Seattle providing all-around views of the city.
When I was in Seattle in January 2020, the rainy weather didn’t make a trip there worthwhile. This day, it was mostly sunny and visibility splendid.

Space Needle from Ground


Space Needle from Ground

Timed-tickets were required to enter Space Needle, which could be purchased on site, and the slots were plentiful during our visit. The line before the elevator wrapped around some exhibition boards about 1962’s World Fair, with the theme “men in space age”. Probably that’s how Space Needle got its name.

Like most other similar attractions, the last step before elevator was the photo stand. But unlike others, Space Needle offered free digital photo download. Despite their green screen / processing was of terrible quality, so I won’t post mine here.

Towers of Pacific Science Center


Towers of Pacific Science Center

The upper deck of Space Needle was open-air, with half of it as dedicated “paid bar area”. The lower-deck was indoor, featuring the original revolving structure and glass floors.

Seattle Harbor


Seattle Harbor Seattle Harbor
Seattle Harbor

Downtown Seattle


Downtown Seattle
Towards the direction of Mount Rainier. Unfortunately the mountain’s behind clouds.

Downtown Seattle


Downtown Seattle
Downtown Seattle Downtown Seattle
Downtown Seattle

Amazon Campus Buildings

 Amazon Campus Buildings
Amazon Campus
Amazon Campus

Lake Union


Lake Union

Ship Canal Bridge


Ship Canal Bridge
Before University of Washington campus.

Distant Mountains in Olympic Park


Distant Mountains in Olympic Park
Mostly covered in clouds.

Puget Sound


Puget Sound

North Seattle from Space Needle


North Seattle from Space Needle

Northeast Seattle from Space Needle


Northeast Seattle from Space Needle

Here are the interesting individual sights.

Roof of KOMO News Building


Roof of KOMO News Building
Lots of antennas.

Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral


Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral
A unique sight in the woods.

Museum of Pop Culture


Museum of Pop Culture

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

UpGarden P-Patch Community Gardens


UpGarden P-Patch Community Gardens
Using roof parking spaces for gardening? Hope parking spaces were plentiful nearby.

Queen Anne High School Condos


Queen Anne High School Condos
Mansion-like high school converted to apartment complex. Rather unique among surrounding townhouses and sitting right on top of hill.

Climate Pledge Arena


Climate Pledge Arena
Multi-purpose arena that once hosted NBA teams, now undergoing renovation.

Paint of Spiders on Seattle Center Roof


Paint of Spiders on Seattle Center Roof
From space needle they really looked like 3D sculptures.

Ship at Port


Ship at Port
It’s hard to comprehend a grain storage/loading facility still occupied such valuable waterfront land.

PI Globe


PI Globe

Manufactured in 1948, the globe was a symbol for Seattle Post-Intelligencer, long one of the city’s two daily newspapers. It sat on top of its former headquarter overlooking waterfront, and was designated a city landmark in 2012.

Office Building


Office Building
Happened to house the current headquarters of Seattle Post-Intelligencer. An interesting layered fa├žade combined with a boring roof.

Seaplane Landing


Seaplane Landing
Nearby Lake Union happened to be a handy landing spot for seaplanes, as they circled around Space Needle before landing in water.

Shadow of Space Needle


Shadow of Space Needle
The lower observation deck featured glass floors, a trend for most high-rise observation decks.

This concluded our hour-long visit to Space Needle.

A friend of mine who lived nearby came by to Seattle Center and we had some good catching up.

AS121 to Anchorage

Unfortunately, we chatted too much. When we realized both bus and tram schedule had been greatly reduced due to COVID, we found our trip back to the airport would be tight.

It’s 3pm sharp that we reached University Street tram station, 3:23 as we boarded the metro, 3:59 when the metro reached airport station. (Thank God Seattle’s tram was pretty punctual despite reduced to 30-minute service interval.) After that, we race-walked towards security check and passed an almost-empty security checkpoint at 4:09. Our flight to Anchorage departed from gate D1, right after security, (We learned this as we waited for the bus to take us to tram station. Had it been a satellite gate, we would probably have taken an Uber instead.) and it’s already boarding (Alaska officially started boarding 40 minutes before departure, earlier than most others.) The gate agent announced that they were pushing for early departure, later I learned from tracking that headwind was strong for the day.

It’s a non-ER 737-900 serving today’s flight, sort of weird as the ER version outnumbered non-ER 79-12 in Alaska’s fleet. Signs of age was everywhere around the plane (N309AS), from its livery of previous generation to old-style windows.

As we tried to catch some breath from our rushing towards the airport, we blasted off the runway, taking a final look of downtown Seattle before banking left towards Puget Sound.
Here’s GPS tracking:

Downtown Seattle


Downtown Seattle
Space Needle in the lower-left, where I was hours ago.

Puget Sound


Puget Sound
Bainbridge Island towards the right.

Olympic National Park


Olympic National Park
Clouds were a constant companion of the park.

Before crossing into Canada we overflew Olympic National Park. While admiring occasional peaks that pierced through the cloud, I didn’t catch any glimpse of Hurricane Ridge, where I visited in January.

Warrior Peak and Mount Constance


Warrior Peak and Mount Constance
Eastern-most ridge of Olympic Mountains.

Mountain Ranges


Mountain Ranges

It was cloudy most of the way along Pacific Coast, so we spent the flight in between naps and video clips.

We started to descend just as we were approaching Prince William Sound, as we made an abrupt turn North towards Valdez. After that, our descent largely followed Knik Glacier, one of the largest glaciers in southcentral Alaska. Had it not been undercast most of the way down, it would be a spectacular aerial tour of mountains and glaciers that’s unique to the state of Alaska.

Mountains and Glaciers

 Mountains and Glaciers
Mountains and Glaciers

Knik Glacier


Knik Glacier
Knik Glacier
Knik Glacier

Knik Glacier Feeding into Knik Arm


Knik Glacier Feeding into Knik Arm

Mountains

 Mountains
Mountains
Chugach State Park. Snow faded away as we approached Anchorage.

Knik Arm and Surrounding Marshland

 Knik Arm and Surrounding Marshland
Knik Arm and Surrounding Marshland

Marshland

 Marshland
Marshland
Across Knik Arm from Anchorage as we made our final approach.

At 7:09pm local time we touched down in Anchorage, 160 minutes since our takeoff, exactly as scheduled (no leeway).

Western Globe MD11


Western Globe MD11
Sign of Anchorage as a busy cargo Airport.

Anchorage Airport Terminal Interior


Anchorage Airport Terminal Interior

Just at the exit of security there’s a health screening area, where all passengers arriving from out-of-state must fill out a declaration form with COVID testing information. However, passing through health screening was voluntary as the airport gates were mixed among in-state and out-of-state arrivals (no one was asking those bypassing screening any questions).
After that, we took a Lyft to our overnight hotel on the city’s outskirts, bought some supplies from a nearby supermarket, and ended this very very long day.
END

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Flight Log of Alaska Airlines Flight 1 and 121 from Washington DC to Anchorage via Seattle by Huang's Site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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