Alaska Airlines has debuted its new first class seat to replace the spacious seats on the ex-Virgin America Airbus fleet. Frankly, the seat is disappointing and Alaska’s strategy is perplexing.
Alaska will refresh the interiors of the Airbus fleet in both economy and first class. The new cabins will include (and I’m just quoting from their press release, so please pardon the fluff…):
- Refreshed color palette from the updated bulkhead design to the carpet, bringing in neutral tones that are associated with relaxing environments against pops of Alaska’s signature blue.
- Ambient mood lighting with calming, cool blue hues developed by lighting and color experts to complement the human body’s natural circadian rhythm. The result is lighting that changes throughout the flight to promote an uplifting energy during the day and calming energy into the evening.
- Advanced high-speed satellite Wi-Fi by Gogo will deliver faster connection speeds, including the ability to stream content from popular services like Netflix or HBOGo.
- Redesigned first class Recaro seats that evoke the feeling of both performance and comfort, like a luxury car. The sculpted design features memory foam and a 40″ pitch, along with footrests to support guests of varying heights.
- Ergonomically-friendly tablet holders at each seat that accommodate most tablets and smartphones. The holders free up tray table space and an added shelf keeps devices in prime viewing position. Flexible mesh pockets also allow for easy access to essentials during the flight.
- Upgraded premium and main cabin seats now feature memory foam for added comfort.
- Conveniently-placed and tilted power outlets at every seat (USB & 110V) that allow guests to easily locate and charge two devices at once. The electrical boxes under the middle seat have been relocated to provide more personal space for guests.
- Curated, onboard music program with a cool West Coast vibe that complements the relaxing and modern ambiance.
- Cup holders throughout first class and premium class, so that guests can multi-task while they savor a craft beer, wine, or cocktail and have full use of the tray table.
Executive Summary: Alaska is ripping out seatback IFE throughout the plane and replacing a first class seat with deep recline and 55″ of seat pitch with a seat with only 40″ of legroom.
We’ll go from this–
The Virgin America seat was great, but still uncompetitive compared its competitors, all of whom offered lie-flat seating on the premium transcon routes they were competing on. Now Alaska is taking a further step back.
Alaska – A premium experience at an affordable price?
Ben Minicucci, Alaska’s President and Chief Operating Officer, argued that Alaska provides a better value in its first class cabin:
After extensive feedback from our guests and in collaboration with our partners, we’ve infused the Alaska Airlines cabin with key brand elements from Virgin America – the result is a premium experience at an affordable price.
But does it?
Alaska offers standard seating on its transcontinental flights:
Meanwhile, American offers lie-flat seating:
So does Delta:
So does JetBlue:
And so does United:
So if Alaska offers a low-cost alternative to its premium cabin competitors, I could understand the business model. But it doesn’t.
Let’s look at some random dates in summer.
From San Francisco to JFK Alaska is the same price as the competition:
From Los Angeles to JFK, only JetBlue is more expensive:
Alaska is a bit cheaper if you fly to Newark, but the same as Delta and American for flights into JFK. And if you are going to buy business class, who would not pay an extra $120 for a real bed?
Maybe Alaska’s advantage is last-minute ticketing? How about San Francisco to New York tomorrow?
Nope, not that either.
Do you mean to tell me that you want to charge more than JetBlue for a far inferior product? Good luck.
I understand a business model that offers an inferior product at a cheaper price. But I simply do not understand an airline that is replacing an uncompetitive first class seat with an even more uncompetitive first class seat and expects to charge roughly the same as the competition.
What are your thoughts on the refreshed cabins for the Alaska Airlines’ Airbus fleet?