The new Alaska Airlines lounge in Seattle is a true beauty. There are plenty reviews on Alaska airlines lounge since it opened in the summer of 2019. Even Scott, thinks the new Alaska Airlines flagship lounge looks like an International business class lounge. With a large open floor plan, cautiously divided from larger social areas with bar and dining options to smaller quiet areas, this lounge is nice! Yet, it’s missing something to be complete. The soft product (food and snacks) just doesn’t match the competition.
Alaska Invests Millions in New Products
Since the acquisition of Virgin America, Alaska Airlines has invested million of dollars to not be your grandmother’s airline. Striving to be West Coast hip with Pacific Northwest flair, Alaska has spent million of dollars in marketing and to revamping their product. In 2017, Alaska Airlines opened an eccentric and bright lounge in Seattle’s Terminal C. Now, Alaska has inflight mood lighting, boarding music, new menus, first class blankets on select flights, and started to roll out a new seat fleet wide.
All in all, Alaska has invested $200 million in its products and I believe it’s paying off in some areas. Alaska’s focus is “how do we make our product and our experience more generous than what customers might expect or what competitors might offer?” Ryan Butz, managing director of customer loyalty at Alaska Airlines, said. Yet I ask, is Alaska Airlines stepping it up enough?
Alaska Airlines is not a major international carrier, but instead a regional carrier. Their focus is the West Coast of the US with some east-west flying and select destinations in Canada, Mexico, and Costa Rica. Therefore, maybe Alaska does not need to offer as much as the larger airlines. Yet, with the battle for Seattle’s market share still brewing between Alaska and Delta, I believe that Alaska still needs to offer more.
Alaska’s New Lounge Misses the Mark
I finally stopped by the new lounge around Christmas 2019 and it’s very nice. Stunning actually! Alaska’s new lounge in Seattle cost close to 40 million dollars. At this price, I would think the airline would think of everything. However, the new lounge doesn’t even offer a shower suite.
Arguably so, a shower isn’t a necessary amenity when flying from Seattle to New York or Los Angeles. Instead, it’s a nice to have after flying long haul on one of Alaska Airlines partner to Seattle and then connecting beyond. After a long flight on Singapore, JAL, Cathay or another partner, I know I would want to shower if connecting beyond Seattle. The same would be true if I was connecting from an east cost red-eye through Seattle. At Seatac airport, Delta and American Express both offer lounges and showers. If Alaska Airlines wants to keep up like Ryan says, then they really should be stepping up their game to match and beat the competition.
Again, the new North Satellite flagship lounge is nice. It builds on what Alaska did at JFK and makes me excited for the new SFO lounge coming in 2020. But the lounge is no nicer than Delta’s flagship Seatac lounge that opened in 2017. Alaska’s lounge membership is still more affordable than Delta’s ($545-$845/year), but I would argue it’s more expensive than an American Express Platinum card ($550), mainly because of the other perks that comes with the card.
Alaska soft product in the lounge is lacking. Meanwhile, soft products at Amex lounges and even Escape Lounges which are part of the Amex network are leaps and bounds better than Alaska’s lounges. Name brand alcohol, wine, beer, and hot food is all included. Meanwhile, Alaska offers a pancake machine, cookies, soup and salad. It really is pathetic in comparison. Even Delta offers several appetizers, hot and cold options, and much better complimentary alcohol brands, superseding Alaska’s offering.
Alaska Airline wants to compete with the major airlines, however I feel as Alaska only gets half way there every time. In terms of the new Alaska Airlines lounge, Alaska’s hard product is world class. Unfortunately, their soft product barely meets the mark. If you’re looking for a welcoming space, fresh coffee, and a salad or pancake before a flight, Alaska Airlines is great. If you’re looking for food with substance, a nice cocktail, or a shower, Alaska does not deliver.
What do you think of Alaska Airlines investment since the merger with Virgin? Is Alaska actually trying to compete or are they just a regional carrier that can’t keep up?