Alaska Introduces Preferred Plus Economy Seating

Late last year I wrote about how Alaska Mileage Plan will begin selling extra legroom seats starting this year. Alaska has always been pretty focused on delivering good elite benefits, which is why they haven’t really monetized upsells for economy seats much. Up until now, only elite members have had access to extra legroom seats.

Alaska-Extra-Legroom-Seating

Well, it’s now official. As of today Alaska Airlines has introduced Preferred Plus seating, which is their extra legroom economy seating:

Customers who like a little extra legroom now have more choices when flying Alaska Airlines, with the launch of Preferred Plus seating. Starting today, the bulkhead and exit row seats will be available to all customers for paid upgrades after Mileage Plan MVP, MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75k members have had an opportunity to reserve them.

Preferred Plus upgrades begin at $15 plus tax, and include a complimentary cocktail or glass of wine or beer, up to eight inches of extra legroom and priority boarding. Upgrades for rows 6, 16 and 17 can be purchased within 24 hours before check-in at www.alaskaair.com, through the Alaska Airlines mobile apps and at the airport, when available. Previously, only Mileage Plan elite-level customers had access to reserve these seats. Upgrades for elites are, and will continue to be, complimentary from the time of booking through departure.

“At Alaska, we’re all about making the travel experience better for our customers,” said Sangita Woerner, Alaska’s vice president of marketing. “As someone who always appreciates more flexibility and choices when traveling, I know Preferred Plus seating will be a welcome addition for our customers.”

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Ultimately the pricing for this extra legroom seating is very reasonable, at $15-50 depending on the length of the flight. That’s especially true since it comes with a free drink and priority boarding.

Also keep in mind that you can only buy Preferred Plus seats up to 24 hours in advance, so elite members will still have access to these seats first. The only negative impacts for elite members are potentially that there will be fewer premium seats available last minute, and that you’re less likely to have an empty middle seat in their premium seats.

Possibly the most interesting thing about the changes is something buried in the FAQs:

Will American and Delta elites have complimentary access to these seats? American elites will receive complimentary access. Delta elites will not have complimentary access to these seats.

This is yet another quiet devaluation for Delta elites traveling on Alaska. Presently Delta elites get access to Alaska exit and bulkhead seating, though it looks like that’s changing immediately with the introduction of Preferred Plus.

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Bottom line

I think Alaska is striking a good balance here between generating incremental revenue and not devaluing the experience for elites. By only selling Preferred Plus seats 24 hours out they’re still giving elite members dibs on those seats. And the pricing is very reasonable, especially when you factor in the free drink and priority boarding.

The only aspect of the new Preferred Plus concept which I question is them generating $15 million per year in revenue off of this. That seems highly aspirational, given that they’re only selling these seats 24 hours.

What do you make of Alaska’s approach to Preferred Plus seating?

Comments

  1. Alsaka has 880 average daily flight, that means they can have to sell 3 seat in every flight

  2. Once again an awesome move from Alaska’s side. The prices are extremely nice; I’d even pay this for the seat itself, let alone priority boarding and a free drink. Love it, love it, love it!

  3. Not quite a free drink for all per the FAQs: “The free drink is only available to customers who have purchased paid upgrades.” Therefore AA elites who don’t pay for the seats also don’t get the free drink.

  4. even on the trans-con, it’s about half of what Delta charges. Nice move Alaska.
    Duck Felta.

  5. Ben,

    Have you seen this yet from the New York Times? Amazing!

    As we push back from our gate at Heathrow Airport we light the Boeing 747’s engines in pairs, starting with those under the starboard wing. A sudden hush falls in the cockpit as the air flow for the air-conditioning units is diverted. It’s this, air alone, that begins to spin the enormous techno-petals of the fans, faster and faster, until fuel and fire are added, and each engine wakes with a low rumble that grows to a smooth, unmistakable roar.

    We begin to taxi. In legal terms, a journey begins when “an aircraft moves under its own power for the purpose of flight.” In aircraft manuals, elaborate charts that recall da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” illustrate the angles and distances that the extremities of the plane sweep through as we maneuver on the ground.

    And it just gets better and better from there:

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/05/14/opinion/14-in-flight-mark-vanhoenacker.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=opinion-c-col-top-region&region=opinion-c-col-top-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-top-region

  6. This is a bit of a devaluation for AA elites, who will now be unlikely to have empty middle seats in the exit row. (AA elites can’t get upgraded on Alaska.)

    I wish Alaska were introducing more than three rows of this, to compensate for the fact that they’re now monetizing it and filling it up more than before.

  7. I think this is a good offering but I too question the financial goals. If the AS elites and AA elites can get these then how many are left for others to buy up to. I’m sure on certain routes this will pay off for them by on most I’d think they would already be full with elites for no additional revenue.

  8. Does this mean the preferred plus will have more leg room than business class? Currently, economy is at 32″ pitch while business at 36″. With 7 to 9 inches more, then preferred plus will be at 39″ to 41″. What am I missing there? Will Preferred plus be better than business then especially if nobody seats on the middle?

  9. @ Dave Op — Correct, the exit row has always had more legroom than first class on Alaska. The chances of an empty middle are even slimmer now than before, though.

  10. When they say “American elites,” are they including Gold? I fly as an AA Gold on AS every week and I still don’t seem to have access to Preferred Plus, either on my already-booked upcoming flights, or the new flight I just booked a moment ago.

  11. Alaska clearly has some hurdles to overcome with actually implementing the “priority boarding” aspect of the Preferred Plus upgrades. I recently flew a segment with upgraded seats, and there was no clear announcement for “priority boarding”, so I decided to go to the gate once they started boarding the rear of the aircraft, and was scolded by the gate agent for boarding too early. I tried it again on the return segment and had the same experience. Once they figure that part out, though, this has the potential to be the most cost-effective economy upgrade of any of the major airlines.

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