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…
Reviewed in 30 seconds
How to Earn More Miles on Alaska Airlines
While you can’t use miles to upgrade into Premium Class, you can be upgraded on a miles ticket to Premium Class, which is awesome. Right now the two cards for Alaska Airlines are:
Both have a current welcome offer of 40,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles and give you access to Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare, which basically gives you a companion ticket in the same class of travel for $99 plus taxes and fees, which these days runs ~$22, so $121 to fly someone with you. That can be a sweet deal, especially when you consider the higher prices Alaska seems to charge for some
Aside from those cards, the only other efficient way to earn Alaska Miles is to either buy them (only if you have a targeted business or first class partner redemption in mind!) or get your butt in an Alaska seat…
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.
If you fly Alaska regularly, then by now you’ve probably ended up on one of the Virgin America Airbus planes, which in my opinion have a better hard product than the Alaska 737s. Alaska is actively retrofitting these aircraft, and while I’m sad to see the Virgin seats go (first class really was awesome, and seatback IFE in economy is ideal), the retrofitted versions will have more premium class seats and more first class seats, so that’s good news for upgrade opportunities. Also, these newer seats are better than the current ones, as they’ve got a tablet holder and memory foam in the cushions, not to mention upgraded wifi (press release). So, if you can get on a retrofitted A320-series jet on Alaska, do it!
You can find Alaska’s own information on all of their aircraft, including seat maps, by following this link.
…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.
Show Me The 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. Remeber that certain airline miles credit cards offer fee credits for incidental airline purchase such as checked bags and in-flight purchases, so make sure you’re maximizing these where possible.
You can read more about the food and drink on offer in Alaska economy here. On longer flights (over 3.5 hours) you will have the option of the hot meal, whereas on shorter flights you’re stuck with the usual snack boxes.
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!