Last spring, Alaska Airlines said it was adding a “preferred seating” premium economy product to its fleet, but it only meant that it would market a few rows that already had extra legroom — bulkhead and exit rows — as a premium product so it could charge a premium price for them. Those seats were called Preferred Plus.
But now the airline has announced a whole new premium product, and this time, it’s the real thing: Alaska said that starting in late 2016, it will introduce a new Premium Class section in between first class and regular economy on its 737-800s, -900s and -900ERs.
The Premium Class seats will have a minimum of 35 inches of pitch, vs. 31 or 32 in regular economy. Persons who sit in Premium Class will also get extra amenities compared with regular economy, but the airline hasn’t yet said what they will be.
Alaska said its Mileage Plan elites will be able to book the Premium Class seats as a free upgrade when they book or on the day of travel, depending on their status level and the fare they purchase. The pricing premium for Premium Class seats hasn’t yet been determined.
The installation schedule calls for up to 60 of its aircraft to get the new section by the end of 2016, and the rest of its 737-800s, -900s and 900-ERs to have it by the end of 2017. It will also go into Alaska’s Embraer 175s, operated by SkyWest, as a 12-seat section.
Here’s a chart with the current and new seating numbers:
|Model||Fleet count||Current seats|
(First class/ Main cabin)
|Reconfigured cabin |
(First class/Premium class/ / Main cabin)
The existing Preferred Plus seats will still be offered on the airline’s 737-400s and -700s.
How will it fit the extra legroom into its planes? By reducing the total number of seats on some aircraft, Alaska said. The carrier’s first class section currently offers seats with 36 inches of pitch, and since the new Premium Class will be pretty close to that, Alaska said it will also increase the distance between rows in first class from 36 to 41 inches.
Although Alaska said it will reduce the total number of seats on some aircraft, its chart indicates that its 737-800s will go from the current 163 total seats to 159 — only four fewer seats. As for its 737-900s and -900ERs, the total seat count will only drop from 181 to 178 — three fewer seats. It just seems like all that extra legroom going into the two front cabins might require a little more than that — unless economy seats will be pushed closer together. And the E175s will keep the same number of total seats despite the addition of 12 Premium Economy extra-legroom seats. That space has to come from somewhere. Just sayin’…
What do you think about Alaska’s plan? Please leave your comments below…
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