Alaska Airlines has announced today that they’re going to be making improvements to their first class menu and experience, with a “west coast twist.” These upgrades are mostly fairly minor, though still interesting to note.
My guess is that these are being announced as Alaska and Virgin America align their inflight experiences. Alaska and Virgin America have been on a single operating certificate since the beginning of the year, and as of April 24, 2018, all Virgin America flights will have Alaska flight numbers, meaning that the airlines will be fully integrated as of that point.
Alaska Airlines will be introducing new first class menus as of this week, and additional product extras will be introduced throughout 2018. Here’s how Alaska Airlines describes their product improvements:
Fresh, local menu selections
- Seasonal menus. Dig into all new meals on flights over 675 miles. Guests will pick from fresh, healthy options including salads and protein plates. Taking inspiration from our Signature Fruit & Cheese Platter, on most flights under 675 miles, guests will be offered a fresh snack – like a chipotle or edamame hummus plate with whole wheat pita and veggies. To ensure preferred choices are available and to reduce waste, meals can now be reserved on the Alaska app before travel on many of our longest flights, with more on the way.
- Local delights. Relish in West Coast treats including Nancy’s Fancy gelatos and Sweet Lady Jane brownies from California, and Chuckanut cheesecakes and Seattle Chocolate truffles from Washington.
- Wine, brews and specialty beverages. Sip the best from up-and-coming West Coast wineries and microbreweries. Wake up to smoothie shots and a variety of full-leaf teas. Starting this summer, a new winemaker program will introduce guests to unique selections that rotate on a regular basis.
- Signature service. Guests can look forward to continuing to receive Alaska’s genuine caring service throughout their journey. On board, a refreshed dining concept will launch later this year with a focus on meeting individual guest preferences around rest, relaxation and productivity.
Thoughtful product extras
- Inflight amenities. Settle in with a cozy quilted throw and entertainment tablet on longer flights. The quilted throw will roll out during spring while new larger tablets will arrive later this year.
- Elevated serviceware. To complement our new menus, guests can look forward to dining on one-of-a-kind Schönwald serving pieces inspired by Virgin America. The stylish and functional collection brings to life the fresh ingredients on offer. Alaska will continue to individually plate each meal on board to better accommodate guest preferences and dietary restrictions.
- Custom seats and interiors. Recline and relax with a footrest, tablet holder, increased cushioning and thoughtful new design details. Refreshed cabin interiors will debut this fall with nearly half the mainline fleet retrofitted by the end of 2019.
- Reimagined lounges. Picture a living room with a barista. We’re unveiling upgrades soon at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The JFK Lounge opens in April and a new flagship 15,000-square-foot Seattle lounge is scheduled to open in 2019. Alaska continues to be the only domestic airline providing all paid First Class guests with complimentary access to airport lounges.
Obviously they’re using a lot of marketing terms here and there’s not that much substance to some of these things. What do I take away most from this?
- Alaska will begin offering quilted throws (as of this spring) and enhanced entertainment tablets (as of later this year) on longer flights
- All Alaska flights with meals will have a vegetarian choice, which wasn’t previously the case (many Alaska flights didn’t have a meal choice at all)
- Alaska will introduce new first class seats later this year, and half of the fleet will be reconfigured by the end of 2019; these seats will only be slightly more spacious than their current first class seats, and as expected, Alaska won’t be introducing a dedicated flat bed product on transcon flights
- The Alaska Lounge at New York JFK will be opening in April, and a new flagship Alaska Lounge will be opening in Seattle in 2019
Alaska’s current first class seats
Virgin America’s current first class seats
The new first class coming to Alaska & Virgin America
This sounds to me like the start of Alaska and Virgin America aligning their inflight products, as the above applies to flights on both airlines (even though they’re technically already one). Long term Virgin America first class flyers are getting a downgrade, while Alaska first class flyers are getting an upgrade. The good news for Virgin flyers is that eventually all flights will be eligible for complimentary upgrades, including those operated by ex-Virgin America planes.
Are there any product improvements here that stand out to you?