Noticeably more legroom, early boarding, free cocktails; and…??

A while back I wrote about the official introduction of Alaska’s new premium economy offering called Premium Class. I detailed what that means for Alaska flyers in terms of upgrades etc. in that post, so I won’t rehash that here, but I will share my thoughts on what it’s like to sit in these new seats. In short, the legroom alone is worth the upgrade — it sure is making my 5+ hour flight from SEA to IAD more enjoyable today. Here’s what to expect when flying Alaska’s Premium Class…

The cabin layout

In order to squeeze the extra legroom into these 6 rows of Premium class, Alaska opted to remove one row of first class seats, so there are now 3 rows instead of 4 on the 737-800. That technically means fewer upgrade options for elites into first, but in practice I don’t think this will make much difference to upper tier elites, and with Premium Class I’d say First Class almost feels like an incremental upgrade in terms of comfort (except for packed flights). In the 737-900 there are still 4 rows of first class with the new 38″ of seat pitch, and slightly fewer regular economy seats available.

The seat…

…is the same old Recaro slimline seats that you will encounter on almost all of Alaska’s other jets, which is to say firm but still comfortable, with an adjustable headrest and power/USB power available at all seats (though row 6 shares only two outlets for each 3 seat set). The only difference you’ll notice is a new taupe headrest cover differentiating these seats from the vanilla main cabin seats. This was to be expected, so what really sets these seats apart is their increased legroom and soft product perks — more on both below.

You’ll recognize that seat as the same exact seat as regular economy, only a different headrest color and of course more seat pitch.

Oh legroom…sweet, sweet legroom

Perhaps the biggest change with Premium Class is the added legroom, which is noticeable and very welcome. The seat pitch is 35 inches, which is only 1 inch less than you’ll find in first class on Alaska. This makes a huge difference, especially in row 6, which already felt like it had just a little extra legroom than the other preferred seats in Alaska’s regular economy outside of the exit rows. Check out this comparison of row 6 Premium Class vs row 23 in the main cabin:

If you can snag one of these seats with nobody seated in the middle seat then you’re in for a real treat. You’ll still kinda sorta maybe wish you were up in First, but I wasn’t sad at all that I missed my upgrade opportunity on this flight.

IFE – it’s alive!

A lot of airlines are moving towards streaming IFE, which means you’ve got to have a computer or tablet (with compatible app…) to watch movies and TV. Generally not a problem for most people, but I am one of those multitaksers who wants to watch a movie AND work at the same time, which I can’t do when there’s streaming IFE. Fortunately, Alaska hands out tablets in first class — and now Premium Class — for free, and they can be purchased in Economy for $8-10 on flights longer than 3.5 hours. SEA to IAD passes that 3.5 hour mark, so I got to work AND watch on my flight with the inflight tablet (running some sort of MSFT software on Toshiba hardware, for those who are curious).

Food and beverage – now complimentary for Premium Class…sort of

The other big perk for Premium Class is complimentary food and beverage — at least mostly. When they say “food” they mean a little snack box with rotating selections of fruits and nuts and chocolate and such, but not enough for a meal by any stretch.

For a reasonably sized snack or meal, you’re still going to have to shell out $6+ for one of their meal options that you’ll see on the menu pictured below. Beer, wine, and cocktails, however, are complimentary, and may help to smooth out those turbulent flights if you’re a nervous flyer. You can read more about the food and drink on offer in Alaska economy here.

Our take on Alaska Airlines Premium Class

Premium Class is a great addition to the Alaska Airlines flight experience, and it’s good to see Alaska pushing into new territory in terms of catering to frequent flyer/premium cabin perks. If you’re an elite you’ll probably either book right into Premium Class or at least be upgraded 24h before departure, and even if you have to pay for these seats, I’d say the legroom alone might be worth shelling out some extra cash, if for no other reason than the ability to work and relax more comfortably. All in all, I’m impressed and will look forward to sitting in this section of the cabin in the future, and can’t wait til the reconfiguration makes it to the 737-900s, of which Alaska has many.

What’re your thoughts?

Have you flown in Alaska’s new Premium Class seats, yet? Was it worth the upgrade? Let us know what you think of it in the comments below!