Alaska Airlines introduced Preferred Plus seating across their fleet on Boeing 737 which are standard economy seats in the exit and bulkhead rows which offer additional leg room. The concept of Preferred Plus seats is to offer premium benefits without the need to reconfigure aircrafts. The Preferred Plus seat is similar to Virgin America’s Main Cabin Extra Select concept, but is more limited as customers receive only one free drink. Virgin America offers both free drink and food for main cabin extra guests.
Alaska Airlines describes Preferred Plus seats as the “best seats” in the economy cabin:
Now on select Alaska Airlines flights, you can enjoy our new special seating option. It’s the very best that our main cabin offers and features:
- Early boarding
- More legroom
- A free drink (with the purchase of a Preferred Plus seat)
Look for this seat option as you check-in with us online, at our kiosk, via our app or with one of our customer service agents.
These seats are complimentary for our MVP®, MVP® Gold and Gold 75K Mileage Plan™ members and companions traveling in the same reservation.
The cost of the exit row is varies based on distance with transcontinental flights costing $50 and short haul flights costing $15.
- Distance of 0 to 1,250 miles: $15
- Distance of 1,251 to 2,000 miles: $30
- Distance of 2,001 miles or more: $50
Alaska Mileage Plan MVP members are not eligible for complimentary cocktail service in the Coach cabin. The seats are complimentary to Alaska Airlines’ other elite passengers. Yet, the caveat to the Preferred Plus seat is the exit rows and bulkheads have always been free to this group of flyers and the early boarding is not a new perk either. So really, the only new perk of the Preferred Plus seat is the complimentary drink, and if you read the fine print, the drink is not free for those who receive the seat based on frequent flyer status!
Instead of improving the flying experience, Alaska Airlines is actually now selling the seats that were once reserved for elite frequent flyers to their other customers and then not including the same experience for all flyers sitting in the Preferred Plus seats. In fact, the flight attendants offered only one person a complimentary drink and when offering it, they made sure customers around him knew that he had purchased the seat. “Mr. Smith, I see you purchased a preferred plus seat, can I offer you a cocktail as it was included in the purchase” – emphasis both times on purchase.
I think Alaska Airlines intention of offering preferred seats or a premium economy product is wise, but Alaska needs to follow Virgin America or even Delta by offering a premium experience for all passengers sitting in the preferred seats and offer it free to their elites who are not upgraded to the forward cabin. In addition, Alaska needs to consider actually enhancing the experience by offering a premium snack and more than one complimentary drink, especially on longer flights. Currently Alaska has one foot in the door and one foot out, by half ass-ing the entire experience. Until Alaska truly incentivizes preferred seating people are not going to pay extra for it, as I believe $15 to $50 is not worth the one drink and extra legroom—especially in the forward exit row which does not even recline!
I would not recommend buying up to a preferred plus seat, but I want to hear from you. Have you purchased a Preferred Plus seat on Alaska Airlines or another airline? Would you do it again?