Alaska Airlines today announced big changes coming to their planes in 2016, which will include a premium economy class product to compete with Delta’s Economy Comfort, American’s Main Cabin Extra, and United’s Economy Plus. The new seats will feature more leg room, priority boarding, and other perks that make the service upgrade well worth it to flyers. In addition, the cabin will be free for Alaska Airline’s Mileage plan MVPs and will not reduce the number of first class seats on most of their planes.
“Premium Class will provide an opportunity for all customers to get an enhanced flight experience,” said Andrew Harrison, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Alaska Airlines. “We are listening to our customers and they have told us that more personal space and extra perks are a priority.”
Alaska plans to retrofit up to 60 aircraft with the Premium Class section by the end of 2016 and the remainder of its 737-800, -900 and -900ER fleet by the end of 2017. The upgrade option will also be available on Embraer 175s, operated by SkyWest, which are configured with 12 seats in the Premium Class section. Preferred Plus seating, currently available for purchase at check-in for bulkhead and exit rows, will continue to be offered on Alaska 737-400s and -700s.
Seats in the Premium Class section will have at least 35” of pitch, compared to 31” to 32” in the rest of the main cabin. To make room for the Premium Class while maintaining pitch in the main cabin, Alaska will reconfigure and reduce the number of seats available on some aircraft. Also, pitch in the First Class cabin will be increased from 36” to 41” providing a significantly enhanced experience for those customers.”
The two big take away’s from today announcement is that Alaska is adding a service class which is really just an economy class seat with more leg room, a standard industry practice in the fly environment in North America; and first class seats will be extended to 41” providing the most leg room on a 737 in the United States!
First class pitch by carrier
Alaska is upgrading their product and is aligning themselves with other major airlines in the United States, and specifically Delta as Alaska and Delta have battled head to head for Seattle’s traffic. The upgraded product will be introduced next year and is just one more way that Alaska is proving to be frequent flyer focused and wants to enhance the flying experience.
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.
What other enhancements will come with Premium class? This is unknown, but I would expect passengers to see the same offering that is currently offered to customers who buy up to the exit and bulk head rows now which includes priority boarding and a free adult beverage while flying. Maybe even upgraded snacks or other amenities will be offered in order to fully compete with Delta’s Economy Comfort.
The announcement of the new economy class of service and extended leg room is very exciting, as the 36” pitch in first class is already among the tightest in the sky and Alaska is going from the tightest to some of the roomiest. Furthermore, it’s fantastic to see an airline invest in onboard products and enhance the flying experience instead of chisel away at it, like some airlines (*cough Cough* American, Delta, United) have done in recent years.