Today is Alaska Airlines annual investor day, so it makes sense they chose today to announce their newest product, Premium Class, offering extra legroom and other perks to passengers. Prior to the introduction of their Preferred Plus product in May, Alaska reserved the extra legroom seats on the aircraft for elite members. These included the bulkhead and exit rows. With the introduction of Preferred Plus, all passengers became eligible to purchase access to the bulkhead and exit rows for a nominal fee.
Alaska’s Premium Class will be similar to extra legroom seating currently available on American, Delta, jetBlue, and United, as it will offer between twelve and thirty extra legroom seats, with a minimum 35″ of pitch across the Boeing 737 and Embraer 175 fleets. Other regional aircraft currently flown by/for Alaska will not receive premium class seats.
The installation of Premium Class is welcome news to many, though the removal of four first class seats from the 737-800 fleet will no doubt disappoint elite members hoping to receive a complimentary upgrade. On the upside, Alaska First Class will be receiving a much needed boost in the pitch, increasing from 36″ to 41″. This is welcome news, especially for tall people like myself. On a recent trip home from Alaska, I was upgraded to first class on both segments, though both flights left me wishing I had kept my original exit row seats.
Premium Class Perks
In addition to the extra legroom offered by Premium Class, passengers sitting in the section will receive priority boarding. Alaska has also signaled their intentions to offer additional amenities to Premium Class, though we’ll have to wait for more information about what that entails. Given the extreme competition Alaska is facing from Delta at their Seattle hub, I would not be surprised to see the additional amenities include some sort of food or drink, similar to what Delta offers to their Comfort+ passengers.
Passengers holding elite status with Alaska Airlines will receive access to Premium Class seats, though it remains to be seen if lower tier elites, such as those holding MVP, will be offered complimentary access or if they’ll have to pay. It wouldn’t be too surprising if Alaska follows American, Delta, or United and only access access to those seats within 24 hours of departure.
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.
By the end of 2016, Alaska plans to have close to 60 aircraft modified to include Premium Class seating, with the rest of the Boeing fleet receiving the upgraded by the end of 2017. Alaska did not specify a timeline for the installation on their Embraer 175s, which are operated by SkyWest, though with just 15 in the fleet, I would hope they could be completed fairly quickly.
Alaska plans to release pricing for Premium Class when they get closer to being able to offer the product to customers. Until then, we can only speculate, though my guess would be that it won’t be too much more than the Preferred Plus seating already available to all customers. Alaska even offers deeply discounted, space available, upgrades to first class, starting at $50 for flights up to 1,250 miles!
This is a welcome addition to Alaska for passengers in Premium Class and those sitting in First Class, despite the removal of four seats from the 737-800. What are your thoughts?