Alaska Airlines announced this morning that it is branding its cabin experience. Just as American is “Going for Great” and Delta created new names for its cabins (Delta One, Delta Comfort +, etc.), airlines seem to be focused on trying to tell tell customers what sets them apart from each other.
Alaska Beyond™ only has one genuinely new feature — a new in-flight entertainment option — but its meant to encompass four key features of the cabin experience where it has been making significant capital and marketing investments.
Alaska has never installed a seat-back entertainment system on its fleet and instead rents Dig-e Players on longer flights for $8 (or gives them for free to first class and MVP Gold 75K members). But they’re copying United and Delta by offering a new in-flight streaming option for viewing on your own device. It will be available on laptops, Android, and iOS devices (on Hawaii flights only, iOS users must download the app before flight).
It’s already available on 50 aircraft with plans to complete the roll-out by April 2015. And the best part: It will be free through January 31! Beginning February 1, movies and TV shows will be available starting at $1.99.
I like the new streaming options on customers’ personal devices and am glad Alaska is not going in the direction of installing IFE at every seat. As someone who is not a huge fan of television (hotels that hide the TV earn bonus points in my reviews), the worst thing about red-eye flights is not the uncomfortable seat but staring at hundreds of screens playing the same default video over and over. Personal IFE lets you watch if you want but doesn’t make me watch with you.
Focusing on “artisan” food and drink, Alaska Airlines is emphasizing the quality of its inflight food and its connection to the local food industry in the Pacific Northwest. It just recently announced a partnership with Tom Douglas earlier this month.
On Alaska flights, you might savor hot entrees created by Tom Douglas or other local chefs, nosh on our Signature Fruit & Cheese Platter featuring Beecher’s Flagship, and sip on wine, poured from wineries like Chateau Ste. Michelle and Canoe Ridge. We also offer premium spirits crafted in small batches by Sun Liquor Distillery.
Not everyone is a fan of Recaro’s slimline seats, but I don’t mind them. I’m more interested in the fact that Alaska is finally rolling out seat-back power on its mainline fleet. This process 95% complete after starting a year ago, and I’m glad every time I see it as I rarely travel without my computer. The location of the power ports in economy class, near chest level on the seat in front of me, is also much more convenient than beneath my seat.
I’ve heard complaints that Alaska’s cabins are not up to snuff, but I’ve responded that their excellent customer service is more important to me than physical comfort (to a certain point). I was upgraded often on United Airlines back when I still flew them, and the experience wasn’t any better than coach if I still had a surly flight attendant griping about the merger. New seats cost money. A smile doesn’t.