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Alaska Air First Class to Las Vegas & a stay in the Aria Sky Suites “Penthouse"(AS F)

Alaska Air First Class to Las Vegas & a stay in the Aria Sky Suites “Penthouse"(AS F)

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Old Sep 12, 14, 11:03 am
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Alaska Air First Class to Las Vegas & a stay in the Aria Sky Suites “Penthouse"(AS F)

Alaska Airlines First Class to Las Vegas, and a stay in the Aria Sky Suites “Penthouse” (AS F)


BLI-LAS-BLI




Introduction:

MrsWT73 has a thing for heat. She loves the heat. Most of our previous travels have involved visiting hot places like the United Arab Emirates and South East Asia. Since you can’t be in Dubai or Bali at every opportunity, Las Vegas in August is the next best thing. Arizona or San Diego isn’t quite yet our thing, since only one of us just turned forty and I don’t quite have a walker just yet.

For this trip, we joined the 5 million other Canadians who leave Canada every year for airports in close proximity to the Canada/USA International Border. We settled on Alaskan Air from Bellingham to Las Vegas. There is such a price disparity between the duopoly of Canadian carriers Westjet and Air Canada for the departures leaving from Canada that an Domestic First Class ticket in the USA, was almost the same price as a transborder economy ticket in faux Low Cost Carrier Air Canada Rouge, leaving from Canada.



In this report :

Alaska Airlines First Class: Bellingham - Las Vegas
Aria Arrival Service / Limo Transfer
Aria Sky Suites - One Bedroom Penthouse
Las Vegas
The AMEX Centurion Lounge - Las Vegas
Alaska Airlines First Class: Las Vegas - Bellingham International


Links to my previous trip reports:

Family Trip to Kenora, "Lake of the Woods" Ontario via Air Canada Business Class, August 2014
Cathay Pacific First Class to New York, a sombre visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum & 4 days of eating in NYC. (CX F). May 2014
The Khors of Oman - via Japan, Poland, & the UAE. RTW in Biz (NH J 787, OZ J, TG J, EY J, TK J, LH J). April 2014
South Africa, Safari in Maasai Mara Kenya, & Mauritius (UA J, SA J, XAK, LX J, AC J) Nov 2013
A family trip to Westin Playa Conchal, Liberia Costa Rica, Aug 2013
Buried Treasure: UAE Empty Quarter and Beyond to Huvadhoo Atoll, Maldives (UA Y, EY J/Y, Q2 Y), Nov 2012
The Time Share Presentation, F RTW, Spain, China, Thailand, (OZ F, TG F, LH F) May 2012.
A visit to Macchu Picchu and Valle Nevado, Peru and Chile. (AC J) Sept 2011
Travel after the Revolution of January 25, 2011. Egypt. May 2011
A Step Back in Time: The Twilight of Burma, a visit to Myanmar Sept 2010

Last edited by worldtraveller73; Oct 4, 14 at 12:40 pm
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Old Sep 12, 14, 11:12 am
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First Class
Alaska Airlines
BLI-LAS (Bellingham International Airport – Las Vegas McCarran Airport)
AS 628 – First Class (P)
10:03 AM – 12:33 PM
August 16, 2014
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800

Instead of our usual departure from Vancouver International Airport today, we opted for Alaska Airlines leaving from Bellingham. Since there was less incentive to stick on our usual Air Canada Altitude Top Tier Status and Aeroplan Frequent Flier Program thanks to years of devaluations, we opted for a cheaper experience with Alaska.

All in, we purchased a round trip ticket confirmed in first class for $389 USD (at 150% FF miles earned), whereas the cheapest economy ticket leaving from Vancouver was $330 on the cramped high density economy seats on Air Canada Rouge (at 50% FF miles earned). As an added bonus, the flight times were reasonable- no 6 AM departures or other odd ball times.

We weren’t alone in doing this, as mentioned earlier approximately 5 million Canadians are leaving Canadian airports for cheaper fares in the USA with over 900,000 people alone from the Province of British Columbia.

A hop through the border with Nexus expedited customs screening and a 17 minute drive down the Interstate – 5 and we were at Bellingham International Airport.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Bellingham Airport. Now it’s a complete facility with private air park and ample parking for $8 a day- all within an easy 2 minute walk of the terminal WITH an option for a free shuttle bus.





It was an easy check in with the Alaska counter. There were no actual attendants for economy class- only kiosks. Three counters were manned, with one counter for first class / MVP, and the other two assisting bag drop. Overall, BLI is a bright, clean and modern facility - a contrast from many of the tired, dusty airports around the US (Seattle N Gates - I'm referring to you).







Only a few flights on the board today in an otherwise deserted airport.





A short line at security today. Although we were TSA Pre-Check flagged, the airport does not have the hardware to participate in it, as there is only one security lane. The TSA podium gave us a coupon to show so we didn’t have to remove your belt and shoes.

On the secure side, there are only 4 gates. Sadly, there are no lounge facilities here. We opted for the Scott Browns Social Lounge for a pleasant quick breakfast, which was handled without delay.





There was lots of gate lice today, made worse by the “check your bag for free” announcement which prompted a rush of people to the podium.





Today’s boarding call was for military, kids and first class all at once. We went outdoor to the apron since there are no jet bridges at BLI. Today’s boarding was double end boarding from both ends of the plane.









Settling in on board, we were met with a new aircraft with very comfortable new leather seats in First in a 2/2 seating configuration. There was a full load of 16 in four rows of first class. Economy was configured in the usual three / three configuration in the back.









An interesting Navajo (or similar type) décor on the headboard of the cabin, coupled with Hawaiian shirt traveler. Sharp observers will notice that the in flight entertainment system, television or any type of projectors are completely absent.



No pre-departure beverage was offered today, one of the only carriers I have been on that isn’t offering this service in business class.

I always find that the in flight magazine is an interesting representation of any airline. Alaska Airlines’ Magazine was packed with fur advertisements and a guarantee for $20 voucher or Alaska Mileage Plan miles if checked bags are not delivered within 20 minutes of landing. Now that’s impressive service!! MrsWT73 agreed. She hates waiting for bags. In blogging spirit, I have no affiliation with any of the fur companies listed.







We were underway without any wait on runway 16L, headed for a southern departure over rural Bellingham.





No printed menus offered on Alaska. Instead, I found the wine list in the magazine. Hey – there it is, along with our Lei’d napkins.





A terrific tasting breakfast quiche was offered, with salad with low fat Rasberry Vinigrette, along with regular beverage top ups. I was happy to have the full breakfast back at Scotty Brown’s at Bellingham airport. There was no way that this portion was going to fully substitute for a meal.



Today’s flight path took us down the western side of Washington state. We had great views of Mount Olympia and Mount Rainier from Seat 2A on the left side of the aircraft. I never find it tiring looking at mountains from the air.













The approach today into Las Vegas was over some fabulous arid mountains. We caught a glimpse of the Red Rock Canyon just west of Las Vegas.







We had an approach around the south side of the Las Vegas Strip. It’s a better view when approaching at night, but it’s still interesting to see the Million Dollar mile in the day time.





Overall, Alaska was a better than expected alternative than Air Canada. The on board service was friendly and frequent. The service felt similar to a small company than a large legacy carrier operating in a unionized environment. I would easily fly Alaska Airlines again in the future.
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Old Sep 12, 14, 11:20 am
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Love your TR's! Looking forward to the rest!
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Old Sep 12, 14, 11:21 am
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Aria Sky Suites
Arrival service and limo transfer.


We were met by our driver at the bottom of the escalator stairs holding an iPad with our surname on it. The arrival service and limo transfer are made available for all of the Aria Sky Suites guests. He assisted with the bags and escorted us out to the VIP car rank outside the arrivals hall.





We were led to one of the 28 limos in Aria’s fleet. The limo had unique Aria branding throughout different areas of the car.







Don, our driver, offered us Evian branded water for the brief trip over to the Aria Sky Suites.



The obligatory leg room shot. Indeed a stretch Lincoln Town Car offers quite a bit of room.



The ride over to the property from McCarran International was a quick 15 minutes. The Aria Sky Suites has a private rear entrance off the east Interstate access road. Once we were waved in past an unmarked security gate, we were led into a discrete entrance that was never busy during our entire stay. It was quite a quiet contrast from the arrival areas of most casinos which are usually a gong show of some sort with crowds lining up at the taxi rank along with party revellers of all sorts.

Some photos of various times throughout our stay.











On arrival, Don led us through an army of staff ready to assist with the bags. Don lead us down the arrival hallway, and handed us over to the front desk whom had already identified us, courtesy of our driver. Some photos of the check in hall way and area.



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Old Sep 12, 14, 11:54 am
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Originally Posted by worldtraveller73 View Post
[B]

Only a few flights on the board today in an otherwise deserted airport.


How long is a flight from Bellingham to Seattle?
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Old Sep 12, 14, 12:23 pm
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Originally Posted by Yahtzee View Post
How long is a flight from Bellingham to Seattle?
It's scheduled at 39 minutes.
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Old Sep 12, 14, 5:45 pm
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Looks great! I want to go back to Vegas after a fun long weekend there last year.

I've never flown Alaska but one of my colleagues flys them a lot being from AK and has said its his preferred North American carrier.
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Old Sep 13, 14, 8:51 am
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Great pics. However, I must say that the Alaska F product still doesn't impress me at all.
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Old Sep 13, 14, 10:28 am
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Wow, I had no idea the cross-border traffic for cheaper air travel was that big of a phenomenon. I knew that it happened a lot at BUF but didn't realize it was so widespread elsewhere. That's fascinating. And Bellingham seems like a nice little operation set up to cater to it - it looks like all their flights are direct to vacation destinations. Very interesting!
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Old Sep 13, 14, 10:38 am
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Originally Posted by worldtraveller73 View Post
An interesting Navajo (or similar type) décor on the headboard of the cabin, coupled with Hawaiian shirt traveler. Sharp observers will notice that the in flight entertainment system, television or any type of projectors are completely absent.
Actually, really sharp observers will notice that the in flight entertainment system is contained in your carry-on luggage and/or your pocket.

Glad you enjoyed your trip on the Eskimo.
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Old Sep 13, 14, 7:21 pm
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Nice report. I've wanted to try one of the Aria Sky Suites. It's one of my favorite Vegas hotels. I have no Vegas plans this year so maybe next year.
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Old Sep 13, 14, 8:58 pm
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Originally Posted by worldtraveller73 View Post
No printed menus offered on Alaska. Instead, I found the wine list in the magazine. Hey – there it is, along with our Lei’d napkins.

Nice report so far. Sharp eye. I wonder if this meal I catered in HNL? I know that AS usually uses the same aircraft to fly LAS-BLI-HNL-BLI-LAS, and that the BLI-HNL catering is actually done in LAS.

-FlyerBeek
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Old Sep 14, 14, 8:23 am
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Originally Posted by worldtraveller73 View Post

For this trip, we joined the 5 million other Canadians who leave Canada every year for airports in close proximity to the Canada/USA International Border.
http://business.financialpost.com/20...ing-them-back/

http://www.conferenceboard.ca/topics...rivenaway.aspx
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Old Sep 17, 14, 6:36 pm
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Originally Posted by Yahtzee View Post
How long is a flight from Bellingham to Seattle?
Originally Posted by a7800 View Post
It's scheduled at 39 minutes.
It is indeed short Yahtzee, as a7800 points out. The problem is that there seem to be longer connections needed for flights that leave from Bellingham. Add some infrequent frequencies and it's not always a first choice when leaving for a longer or quick trip.

Originally Posted by krazykanuck View Post
Looks great! I want to go back to Vegas after a fun long weekend there last year.

I've never flown Alaska but one of my colleagues flys them a lot being from AK and has said its his preferred North American carrier.
Thanks krazykanuck. we enjoyed our Alaskan experience and wouldn't hesitate to fly them again. Perhaps Hawaii next time. . .

Originally Posted by fly747first View Post
Great pics. However, I must say that the Alaska F product still doesn't impress me at all.
Thanks fly747first.

The Alaska First product is interesting. With Alaska being a continental player, with some select services to Hawaii and Alaska, I don't think they intend to ever compete with the likes of configured beds on widebody aircraft. Where they do compete is on the soft product - much friendlier staff than United and a much better and tastier food offering.

Originally Posted by arlflyer View Post
Wow, I had no idea the cross-border traffic for cheaper air travel was that big of a phenomenon. I knew that it happened a lot at BUF but didn't realize it was so widespread elsewhere. That's fascinating. And Bellingham seems like a nice little operation set up to cater to it - it looks like all their flights are direct to vacation destinations. Very interesting!
The cross - border traffic arlflyer is huge. It's huge for those of us that have realized that there IS a difference. Most of the one trip a year people don't realize the different. . .

Originally Posted by Eastbay1K View Post
Actually, really sharp observers will notice that the in flight entertainment system is contained in your carry-on luggage and/or your pocket.

Glad you enjoyed your trip on the Eskimo.
Thanks Eastbay1K - I haven't gotten around to buying an iPad just yet. If I were flying Alaska on a regular basis I would probably make the investment.

Originally Posted by nichelle View Post
Nice report. I've wanted to try one of the Aria Sky Suites. It's one of my favorite Vegas hotels. I have no Vegas plans this year so maybe next year.
Thanks nichelle. It seems that many hotels are getting in on the boutique hotel offering. It's a bit harder to find actual reports of boutique hotels so I thought this one would be interesting to add to the collection here.

Originally Posted by FlyerBeek View Post
Nice report so far. Sharp eye. I wonder if this meal I catered in HNL? I know that AS usually uses the same aircraft to fly LAS-BLI-HNL-BLI-LAS, and that the BLI-HNL catering is actually done in LAS.

-FlyerBeek
I think on further investigation FlyerBeek, you are correct. I don't believe our napkins on the return were lei'd!! Good spotting.

Thanks AndrewE - those were good articles. I wish consumers would start to vote with their wallets for some price relief in Canada on airfares. Sadly, it doesn't seem likely in the near future.
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Old Sep 17, 14, 6:51 pm
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Aria Sky Suites
One Bedroom Penthouse
MGM Hotels and Resorts


I’ve been staying at MGM Hotels and Resorts for over twenty years. Despite that, I’m actually not a big gambler. However, I really like the restaurant scene in Las Vegas since every celebrity chef has a representation of his or her restaurants in this postal code of the United States. It’s become a bit of a foodie destination.

The Aria Sky Suites are advertised from within a microsite linked to the main Aria webpage and is marketed as a boutique hotel of sorts. Many hotels in Las Vegas have attempted to capture the higher spend clientele by offering a hotel within a hotel. The Aria Sky Suites website advertised the following features:

CELEBRATE LAS VEGAS WITH DISCRETION: AArrive by luxury vehicle at a VIP entrance that few ever see, one of only 83 hotels in the world with a Forbes Five Star Award. Be whisked up to luxury via private elevator. Discover all this AAA Five Diamond Award-winning destination has to offer - restaurants from the world-renown chefs, mesmerizing nightlife, an indulgent spa and salon, and an acclaimed Fine Art Collection. Slip seamlessly, at any time, back into the privacy of your lavish Sky Suites retreat overlooking the city.

THE ARIA SKY SUITES EXPERIENCE
Your exclusive experience at the Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Award-winning Sky Suites includes:
• Exclusive porte-cochère entry with personal curbside welcome
• Private check-in available
• Secluded lounge with complimentary food and beverage amenities including a daily wine and cheese pairing
• Private key elevator access
• Complimentary newspaper delivered daily
• Access to over 2,000 Electronic Newspapers
• No-wait line pass to The Buffet and ARIA Café
• Complimentary iPad/Laptop use during stay
• Personalized concierge and special services upon request
In-Room and Resort wide Wi-Fi Access

INSIDE YOUR PRIVATE ARIA SKY SUITES RETREAT
The 1– and 2–bedroom suites and penthouses at Sky Suites feature the highest floor plans in Las Vegas with breathtaking views of the Strip and surrounding mountains, and an array of other exclusive amenities:
• Twice daily housekeeping service
• Custom ARIA mattress with triple sheeted 100% Egyptian cotton linens
• Stunning bathrooms with stone shower/bench, separate whirlpool bath, dual granite vanity sinks, private water closet with TOTO electronic fixtures
• Deluxe ARIA spa products, ultra plush robes and slippers
• Exquisite horticulture in all suites, including orchids
• 52" HD television in living area / 42" HD television in bedroom / 20" in bathroom
• Plug and Play laptop, video devices, cameras and MP3 players
• Integrated one-touch control of guestroom features, including lighting, temperature, television/video, music, wake-up calls, draperies, and requests for services




After the check in, we were discreetly handed off to Rebecca who arranged to escort us to our room. We were escorted to the elevator, past the “Fine Art Collection” – in this case a beautiful Andy Warhol series.



Similar to the riding the elevator down to the limo transfer cars at the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Rebecca left us to ride the guest elevator up to the room on our own. We found our own way to the room, with Rebecca bringing up the bags shortly after our arrival. It’s a bit strange being left on your own like that. For me it seems that an escort would be nicer and more hospitable and a better way to introduce the hotel and the area to the guest.

Today’s Penthouse Suite is actually on the 38th floor?? LOL







The Aria One Bedroom Penthouse Suites feature 1,400 square feet of space with the following features
  • Separate Living Room area
  • Separate Dining Room area with wet bar, mini bar and separate fridge.
  • Separate One Bedroom area
  • One and a half bathrooms.
Essentially, it's a hotel room with three times the size.

Here’s a floor plan from the website:



First impressions? Overall, it’s an impressive room that pleased Mrs WT73 to no end. “OMG this is nicer than our house. Hello y-es. I live here”. Well, you do for the next three days. Only.

The room had modern contemporary décor. It worked quite well for the hip surroundings of Las Vegas.











Wet bar:





Bodacious bedroom:













The room featured probably the largest ensuite bathroom that I’ve been in. MrsWT73 was impressed that she had not only her own sink, but a separate make up station, walk in closet, steam room, and bathtub as well.















The lighting and all electronics, as with all other rooms at the modern Aria, are controlled by a tablet device at the bedside.



Overall the Aria Sky Suites offered a very impressive room. There was some light wear and tear but otherwise a very nice suite. After dropping the bag, Rebecca located some ice for us as well which was brought to the room.

The room also featured an eastward Las Vegas Strip view. The Las Vegas strip has grown up to be such a hap hazard collection of buildings and casinos the view is more of the general area and the lights than of any one individual feature or attraction. Despite this, I actually came to enjoy the feature.







The main front entrance of the Aria resort and the neighboring Monte Carlo pools.





Up next: features of the property.
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