A Look At Alaska’s Spacious “New” First Class Seats

In late 2015, Alaska Airlines announced that they would be adding extra legroom seats to their planes. Specifically, Alaska was introducing Premium Class, which features extra legroom, complimentary drinks and snacks, etc. While that’s good news, there was another part to this announcement.

Specifically, a majority of Alaska’s fleet would go from having 16 first class seats to having 12 first class seats. While they got rid of four first class seats, the existing seats would go from having 36″ of pitch to having 41″ of pitch. This means Alaska is going from having among the most limited seat pitch in domestic first class, to having among the most seat pitch in domestic first class.

As we later learned, starting in late 2018, Virgin America will be eliminating their superior first class product, and instead aligning it with Alaska’s product. When this happens, Virgin America will go from having eight first class seats to having 12 first class seats.


Virgin America’s current first class seat

The seats will eventually be installed on both Alaska and Virgin America, and will feature 41″ of pitch (rather than the current 55″ on Virgin America), and “improved seatback storage pockets, cup holders, footrests, and personal power outlets throughout the cabin.” The only silver lining for Virgin America flyers is that they’ll introduce complimentary upgrades to first class when they reconfigure their planes, which they don’t presently offer.

Yesterday for the first time I had the chance to fly Alaska’s intermediate “new” first class seats. I put new in quotations because the seats themselves aren’t new, but rather they just have improved spacing. Eventually Alaska will get new seats as well, but this is the maximum legroom we’ll see on Alaska planes.

So, how was Alaska’s new first class? Well, the 41″ pitch is really noticeable. The amount of legroom is impressive, and you can tell right away that there’s more legroom than on other airlines. The difference isn’t that massive, but it’s obvious.


Alaska’s new first class seat

Perhaps what I find most interesting is that they didn’t increase the seat recline when they spaced out these seats more. Alaska seats barely recline (which makes sense, since they used to have just 36″ of pitch). With the 41″ configuration, this is a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it.

On one hand, with 36″ of pitch and decent recline, you could barely open your laptop screen, even in first class. The good news is that with 41″ of pitch you’ll never have issues with your laptop or feel claustrophobic when the person in front of you reclines. The person in the window seat can even potentially get out while you stay seated without it being too awkward.


Alaska’s new first class seat legroom

Still, the extra spacing sort of seems like a lost opportunity. The seats aren’t spaced out enough to make a material difference in terms of the airline I’d choose, but at the same time the difference is somewhat noticeable. It’s certainly noticeable in comparison to Alaska’s old cabins (among the tightest out there in first class), though it doesn’t stand out that much compared to some of their competitors. For example, American’s 737s (with the exception of their 737 MAX aircraft) feature just slightly less legroom.

Ultimately I guess they made this decision because they realized they couldn’t realistically squeeze in another row, so they figured they might as well make the product a bit better.

So while it’s pretty no frills, Alaska now definitely does offer industry leading seat pitch in first class.

If you’ve flown Alaska’s roomier first class product, what was your experience like?

Comments

  1. As I approach ( no pun) my mm I love the new configuration. And see no real issue with the recline and I pay for my seats !

  2. “Yesterday for the first time I had the chance to fly Alaska’s “new” first class seats. I put new in parenthesis”

    You put new in something else…

  3. I thought the photos of the new seats indicated there would be leg rests – ala AA PE seat?

    Or is that only for the VX aircraft?

    If not – it really makes me wonder if they are committed to the level of transcon flying VX do now. A basic AS seat without a footrest will be sooooooo non competitive in the JFK-SFO/LAX markets. At least with the leg rests they could fake it.

  4. Row 1 of the 737-800 has even more legroom than the other rows. The window seat there is my new favorite because of the extra legroom and how easy to get in and out with someone sitting in the aisle. Row 1 of the 737-900 is a little more tight.

  5. Thanks! I like being able to put my feet up on the bulkhead though. However, there is no magazine pouch in front of the aisle seats. Annoying!

  6. Dmodemd – please don’t put your disgusting feet up on the bulkhead. This is why Europeans laugh at us.

    Also don’t:

    – Yell over other people, it’s considered rude.
    – Fly in your bunny slippers. You’re in public, at least try a little.
    – Show us you bare feet. Ever.
    – Let your child kick the seat in front of you. It is not cute, it’s harassment.
    – Ask to swap seats. Take your damn seat and pay more next time if you don’t like it.

    Seriously people. Behave yourselves. Or take the bus.

  7. I find the seat pitch on domestic F with United, American and especially Delta to be tight. American has some planes that are 40″ (mostly Boeing’s I think) and those are noticeably better, so I welcome Alaska’s move to a more spacious domestic F product.

    Virgin America is in the current position of having the worse domestic Transcon Business/F product (SFO/LAX-JFK and a couple other routes), but the best domestic F product on about any other route they serve. With 52″ of pitch there is a lot of room. I’m currently trying to enjoy the VX product while it’s still around, and wonder how the really new Alaska F seat (the post integration F seat) will be at 41″ pitch. Those new seats will have a host of design updates as new designs usually do.

    Alaska will be at a disadvantage on the premium transcon routes, but they may end up having the best domestic F product on all the other routes they serve. This could be a significant competitive advantage for persons like myself who also fly west cost to a number of destinations other than only the greater NY area (Chicago, Nashville, New Orleans, Miami area, Philadelphia, etc). It doesn’t look like Alaska will FULLY introduce and install that new product for a while, maybe late 2019. For myself that’s fine as I try to take advantage of the old VX seats while there are still here.

  8. While “premium” class is nothing if not underwhelming, the new pitch in First is quite welcome and noticeable. Those aren’t the new seats they have been talking about, though — they’re going to start showing up next year. It’s not VX good, but it will be an improvement over the current hard product, which already feels super dated… For more info and pics see this: http://www.aircraftinteriorsinternational.com/news.php?NewsID=87422

    And this: https://www.dallasnews.com/business/airlines/2017/09/13/see-fort-worth-factory-alaska-airlines-new-first-class-seats-made

  9. Sigh. I guess I just kept hoping that they’d do something interesting or innovative post-merger (y’know, like JetBlue Mint or fast, free Wi-Fi) but they just continue to underwhelm. Being able to finally use your laptop in Business Class is a step up from where they were before, but I’d file it under “fixing a glaring omission” versus “doing something new”.

  10. This is still a competitive advantage as AA has switched to crappy 37” pitch on their 737 MAX aircraft and will be apparently refitting the rest of the 737 Fleet to same standard. Given AA and DL have terrible legroom and UA generally has poor service AS could generate some premium domestic business here I think. Smart to expand pitch while AA ruins their own product.

  11. Hey Ben I fly AS f quite a bite as they are one of my loyalty Airlines, do you know what routes/ what aircraft these are on? And what’s the timeline for this being put on all aircraft? Thanks Ben!

  12. Domestic business class seat design could use some of the same innovation that has come to coach with slimline seats. These seats are so chunky that there is much wasted bulk that could otherwise be devoted to knee and legroom. In many cases, I find myself happier in MCE, C+, E+, EMS than in a domestic first class seat. They are narrower, but they definitely have more legroom since you can put your feet way under the seat in front.

  13. It sounds nice compared with domestic F on the big three, however, who would take the stingy recline over flat beds on prem transcons? AS will either fare down VX’s hpremium charge on transcon or sacre away paid J customers

  14. @tom

    The new seats coming to Alaska in the next year or so will be slimline seats.

    Personally, I would take the worst domestic first over any of the domestic premium economy offerings. Seat pitch is important, but seat width to me is much more valuable. Not having to share an armrest with someone greatly increases my free space and overall comfort level. I’m saying this as 6′ 2 guy who often has his knees against the seat infront of me when sitting in the back of the plane.

  15. Lucky, I’m pretty sure that American is going to outfit all of its 737 aircraft with the newer and horrible footprint of the 737 max.

  16. As an Alaska Gold member, maybe they listened to my complaint about the new jets, I felt very claustrophobic in that new, now older version of First class. Extra leg room is the main reason I want selective seating for domestic Firct class.

  17. Terence,

    The problem is that Americans won’t pay for the kind of premium cabin you get with foreign airlines, for just a domestic route.

    There is some demand between SFO/LAX and BOS/JFK/PHL/IAD but that’s about it. Otherwise First on domestic is basically Premium Economy on a decent foreign airlines.

    At the end of the day it’s a 5 hour flight.

  18. Lucky,

    I’m upset with this article because you’re wrong.
    That is not the new AS seat, the new seat hasn’t been installed yet, which you should’ve known. Alaska is re-pitching their first class and adding premium class (like the plane you flew on). The re-pitching/premium class change is a completely separate from AS releasing a new seat (the one shown in Seatlink’s Comment). You should completely re-write this article and apologize.

  19. @Konrad – What nonsense comments! Did you actually read the article? It is pretty clear what he is talking about when you actually read the article.

  20. @Stephen — the post appears to have been edited to be more factually correct, but the original version was indeed not correct (hence the comments), so take it easy on @Konrad 🙂

    At the end of the day, this is a transitional paxex for AS, and while the seats are comparatively mediocre, the pitch is great, and the new seats forthcoming will make AS a leader in terms of domestic hard product on many US/CA/MX routes…aside from the obvious premium transcons, which even the [sadly] disappearing VX F/J can’t touch…

  21. I also think the “new” seats headline is misleading. The seats are not new, just the pitch… and since new seats are upcoming and he said he flew on the “new” seats, it is even more misleading. Just part of the vast decline in journalistic integrity these days for click through revenue.

  22. I’ve flown the reconfigured 800s for a while and I’ve also flown some 900s with 4 rows of decently spaced F and the new space bins. Those are great. No issues with running out of overhead space.

    The newer 900s were a big surprise to me.

    They went from worst to almost the best (excluding VX).

    -David

  23. No feet, shoes on bulkheads–it’s rude and poor form.

    No barefeet. Wear socks. Also, complete agreement re: changing seats/asking others to change your seat. If you do not “like” your seat–either pay for business class, pay for premiere class, or pay for the special seating that you require.

    Thank you.

  24. I really wish Alaska would increase the seat recline. Even if it means that the aisle passenger has to get up to let out the window passenger.

    Alaska flies enough redeye flights – Hawaii to West Coast, but also West Coast to East coast. And the limited recline in the seats today is not comfortable for sleeping. A few more inches of recline would make the seats better for sleeping.

  25. I think the story is Lucky booked a ticket with AS. This “new” has been around for almost a year on 737-800

  26. Maybe I don’t fly first class enough, but I’m 6’5 and 350 lbs, and the first class seats on Alaska’s 737 with 36 inch pitch (16 seats total) were more than adequate for me (I could cross my legs, and the guy at the window seat was able to get up and use the bathroom no problem).

  27. The 737-900 series with 16 seats has fantastic space between the seats. I really hope the new seats have a leg rest and greater recline. While not that important for West Coast jumps, it would make a great difference for the East Coast / Hawaii and Alaska runs.

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