after taking my first Alaska Airlines flights in a while this past weekend, i was reminded that you can board before the rest of coach boards (and ensure yourself overhead bin space) — even if you are not elite — if you choose a bulkhead row during check-in. they will call for elites and “row 6” after boarding the first class cabin.
normally you have to have elite status on Alaska or one of their close domestic partners (American, for example) to get assigned into row 6 (the usual bulkhead row) prior to check-in, but once check-in opens up 24 hours prior to departure, you should be able to put yourself into an open seat in that row. of course, it all depends on how full and elite-heavy your flight is, but it doesn’t hurt to check if there are any left. just be sure to do it as close to the beginning of the online check-in window as possible because you don’t want someone else beating you to the punch (err, seat, as the case may be).
i assume they do this because on some of their planes the partition between first and economy is a full wall, meaning you don’t have underseat stowage as an option for your carry-on(s), so they’re thoughtful enough to let you board first to make sure you have somewhere to put your things. of course, you could luck out and be on a plane that only has a curtain, meaning you have the room under the first class seat in front of you, too! just be sure to check seatguru to see how your plane is configured.
note that Alaska also allows people who gate-check their carry-ons to board early as well, but this is, imho, a preferred option since you don’t have to gate-check (and thus wait at the carousel at your destination), and you get to board early. just be aware that you may not be able to stow your belongings under the seat in front of you depending on the plane.
the usual disclaimer: Alaska may change their boarding procedures at any time, so your mileage may vary.