Over 14,000 inches of extra legroom coming to the Alaska Airlines fleet!

Perhaps in a move to keep up with larger rivals like Delta, Alaska announced earlier this year a premium economy product to be retrofitted on all of their aircraft. Well, that day has come, and you can now book these upgraded seats or select them straightaway if you’re an elite. As a frequently-upgraded elite, the first thing I noticed in the press release was the decrease in the number of first class seats on the 737-800 from 16 to 12. This move effectively reduces the number of first class seats – and thus upgrades – by 244 seats, or just over 10% of Alaska’s total available pool of F seats. Still, Alaska flyers will see a huge net increase in the number of seats available with at least 35″ inches of seat pitch. As a bonus, perks like early boarding and free food/beverage round out the Premium Class product from Alaska. Here’s what to expect…

What’s the rollout schedule?

See the chart below for more info on exact numbers. According to the press release, it looks like all 737-800s will be done by January, with the 900s in process and to be completed by the end of 2017. The 700s, which will probably just be retired as the MAX aircraft come in, will likely see the refit, but plans for these won’t be announced until next year. Notice that the 400’s are lacking — these are slated to be replaced by incoming 900s, a process that will be complete some time in 2017.

What’s the diff?

These are the exact same Recaro Slimline seats currently installed on the bulk of Alaska’s fleet, with a slight twist. Premium class gets you 3 perks not found in regular economy:

  • 3-4″ of additional legroom/seat pitch (35″ compared to 31-32″) – one inch less than the 36″ in first class!
  • early boarding
  • drinks and snackies included, which will save me approximately $12 per flight 😀

These perks will cost you anywhere from $15 to $79, depending on the length of the flight. For more details on what you can expect with Premium Class, check out this page. Worth it? I dunno…for the legroom and ability to work effectively on your laptop, yes. Snacks and early boarding? Not really — this is more of a bonus for elites who will book into Premium Class automatically. More details on that below…

Get that upgrade

As is often the case with the introduction of premium economy products, the upgrade situation is changing at Alaska starting December 5th. MVP elites will book into Premium Class automatically, provided they book within the appropriate fare bucket; if they’re not booked in an auto-up fare bucket, then complimentary upgrades into Premium Class will start clearing at 72 hours before departure. 75K Gold’s will get into Premium Class on all fares.

As for First Class upgrades, there are some minor but important changes happening. First, fare bucket will be the tie-breaker, not date of booking, which is what it used to be with AS. This obviously helps anyone who tends to book more towards the last-minute end of the spectrum…like me. Second, one or two (depending on status tier) auto-up fare buckets have been removed for MVP and MVP Golds, which basically means there are fewer chances to book into First on the beloved instant upgrade, which is one of the best perks of having Gold/75K status with Alaska in my opinion. The good news? Alaska is now introducing cimplimnetary upgrades for award tickets similar to revenue tickets! Also note that things remain largely unchanged for 75K Golds.

You can read all the details about the new upgrade policies right here.


Alaska’s new Premium Class will be a great perk for elites, and for $15-79 (depending on flight length) non-elites can enjoy 3-4″ of extra legroom, early boarding, and free drinks and snacks (press release). What do you think about Alaska’s new Premium Class retrofit? Let us know in your comments below!

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