Alaska Airlines may be a smaller airline, but it’s still best to compare it with the legacy carriers like United, American, and Delta — all of which have first class cabins and a more conventional loyalty program. Therefore it’s surprising that they’ve waited this long to introduce an economy class section with extra legroom. United was the first with its EconomyPlus. Delta’s Comfort+ and American’ Main Cabin Extra followed.
Today at its annual Investor Day conference, Alaska announced plans to introduce a competing product: Premium Class.
Customers who upgrade to Premium Class will get priority boarding and enjoy three to four inches more legroom compared with a standard coach seat. In addition, Alaska Airlines plans to offer additional amenities to further enhance the Premium Class in-flight experience. This upgrade option will be available to Alaska Airlines elite Mileage Plan members on a complimentary basis at booking or day of travel dependent on status and fare purchased.
There is still no information on what that additional pricing will be, but I expect it to be anywhere from $15 to $50 dollars per segment based on comparable extra legroom offers from the Big Three. I’m glad to see that it will still be complimentary for Alaska’s elite members.
|Current Seats (First/Coach)
|Reconfigured Seats (First/Premium/Coach)
You may recall that Alaska previously announced “Preferred Plus” seating in May of this year. That was little more than a remarketing of its existing bulkhead and exit row seats, except that they made it available for purchase to customers without elite status. Premium Class is a more drastic change and suggests that there was sufficient demand for Preferred Plus to expand it to additional rows. I personally love Alaska’s bulkhead Row 6, mostly because Alaska uses a curtain or cut out that ensures I still have plenty of room for my bag and feet.
In order to offer this new product, Alaska will be reconfiguring its cabins to remove a row of seats. Pitch in Premium Class will be 35 inches vs. the usual 31-32 inches in the rest of the main cabin. First class will also be getting bigger, with plans to increase from 36 inches to 41 inches. However, it does include some bad news in that the number of first class seats will decrease on the 737-800.
Note the changes will only be coming to the Boeing 737-800/900/900ER fleet and the new Embraer E175 fleet. Other Boeing models and smaller regional aircraft such as the Bombardier Q400 will not get Premium Class. The rollout is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.