Alaska Airlines Unveils New Cabin Interiors

Filed Under: Alaska
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This month Alaska Airlines has unveiled their first Airbus aircraft with new interiors, so let’s take a look.

Alaska’s post-merger fleet

Alaska Airlines’ takeover of Virgin America closed a couple of years ago. Aside from their common West Coast focus, the airlines otherwise had very little in common, and offered very different passenger experiences.

Virgin America offered some of the nicest planes available in the US, with comfortable recliner seats in first class, and power ports and TVs at every seat. Alaska, on the other hand, offered some of the most basic planes in the US, with tighter first class seats, and without power ports or personal televisions at any seat (it’s only in the past couple of years that Alaska’s mainline fleet consistently features power ports).


Virgin America’s former first class seats


Virgin America’s former main cabin

A look at Alaska’s new interiors

In order to align their product among the Airbus and Boeing fleets, Alaska is now introducing a single interior, which will eventually be available throughout their mainline fleet.

Here are some pictures of what we should expect the cabin to look like:

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Here’s how Alaska describes the interiors of these planes:

  • Refreshed color palette from the updated bulkhead design to the carpet, bringing in neutral tones that are associated with relaxing environments against pops of Alaska’s signature blue.
  • Ambient mood lighting with calming, cool blue hues developed by lighting and color experts to complement the human body’s natural circadian rhythm. The result is lighting that changes throughout the flight to promote an uplifting energy during the day and calming energy into the evening.
  • Advanced high-speed satellite Wi-Fi by Gogo will deliver faster connection speeds, including the ability to stream content from popular services like Netflix or HBOGo.
  • Redesigned first class Recaro seats that evoke the feeling of both performance and comfort, like a luxury car. The sculpted design features memory foam and a 40″ pitch, along with footrests to support guests of varying heights.
  • Ergonomically-friendly tablet holders at each seat that accommodate most tablets and smartphones. The holders free up tray table space and an added shelf keeps devices in prime viewing position. Flexible mesh pockets also allow for easy access to essentials during the flight.
  • Upgraded premium and main cabin seats now feature memory foam for added comfort.
  • Conveniently-placed and tilted power outlets at every seat (USB & 110V) that allow guests to easily locate and charge two devices at once. The electrical boxes under the middle seat have been relocated to provide more personal space for guests.
  • Curated, onboard music program with a cool West Coast vibe that complements the relaxing and modern ambiance.
  • Cup holders throughout first class and premium class, so that guests can multi-task while they savor a craft beer, wine, or cocktail and have full use of the tray table.

As you can see, first class will feature 40″ of pitch and will offer foot rests, and TVs are being removed (though there will be cup holders and tablet holders). This is a big downgrade compared to Virgin America’s old first class, which featured 55″ of pitch and had personal televisions at every seat.

 

In economy they’re also removing personal televisions from the ex-Virgin America fleet. Each seat will feature a 110v and USB outlet, and tablet holders.

Since they’re removing personal televisions, they’re offering high-speed satellite wifi (for purchase), free chat, and free movies and entertainment streamed to your personal device.

Timeline for Alaska’s new cabin interiors

The ex-Virgin America fleet will largely be updated before the ex-Alaska fleet, as follows:

  • Alaska’s fleet of Airbus planes (A319s, A320s, and A321s) will be updated through early 2020
  • Alaska’s fleet of Boeing 737-700s and three new Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes will feature the new interiors by early 2020

That represents 36% of Alaska’s mainline fleet, and then we don’t know exactly when the remaining planes will feature the new cabins.

Bottom line

These new cabins are a slight upgrade for those used to the Alaska flying experience, while they’re a significant downgrade for those used to the Virgin America flying experience. It’s funny that Alaska says that these new cabins offer an “elevated flying experience.”

Alaska also says that these “upgraded cabins” are the result of “two years of customer research and combines the best features of Alaska Airlines and Virgin America.”

Cool, I guess Alaska did the same focus groups as American — people don’t want TVs! And when you fly Delta and you see just about everyone watching their personal television, clearly those people are just outliers.

What do you make of Alaska’s new cabin interiors?

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Comments
  1. The streaming tablet route sucks. Offer that AND put TVs in for live TV/sports. AA is the worst though, only streaming and on some aircraft, no power ports. Leads to lots of dead phones/tablets.

  2. Ed – blue light during the day is natural. It’s at time time when blue light exposure destroys your circadian rythym. Traveling with red-hued glasses is the best defense for when AA blasts you with blue light when preparing for landing at night.

  3. Tbh IFEs cause me just as much frustration as they do happiness. They pause during announcements, and even (at least on AA) interrupt your movie to show an advert about how you can, you guessed it, watch movies! Not to mention the credit card pitch. Flights under two hours I end up using my own device to avoid the constant interruptions.

  4. I think Virgin and Alaska had a lot in common… they had customers who really appreciated their product for their own reasons. Alaska had and still has excellent service. They brought that together under the reality of the airline business today. Anyone who is actually informed about that business knows it is basically the worst ever, it basically has a negative profit since inception. But who cares about that when we have bloggers right!? Who cares that Seattle and many other west coast cities have an airline which tries to live in the boundary between the nightmare of United and the lofty dreams of some jetsetting blogger who has never operated even a lemonade stand.

    Yes I like it when I get the old Virgin seats. Personally I think Alaska ought to give something like them a shot on transcons and less on others. No they will never have flat beds. Yada yada yada, I could go on for ever and so could my debating opponent.

    Is it a moral issue? Of course it is not.

  5. Is this the new cabin? I think I flew on the exact same seat last month traveling SEA-ANC. These seats were more comfortable than UA’s domestic first class, but certainly no comparison to what VX once had. And funnily enough, AS now charges a premium for traveling in VX’s old first class, and oftentimes even more expensive than UA/AA/DL/B6’s lieflat transcon flights.

  6. Ever try working on a laptop on Delta’s F class seats? Good luck when the seat in front reclines. AS seems to be making the best compromise they can – they seem to sell most of their 739 F seats, so the A320 F class space seems like poor revenue management. Can’t speak to LAX or SFO, but out of SEA and PDX none of the airlines except maybe Jet Blue (haven’t flown them) offer space that is similar. The Delta IFE is best, the 3 Legacy are better for pre-departure drinks, but typically those are not that important to my journey. Much more interested in safety, on-time performance, and customer service of the airline. If the first two are equal, AS definitely beats out UA and AA on the third. Delta can match, but I can change AS tickets at no penalty – beats out DL on the tie breaker.

  7. Virgin offered huuuuge seat pitch in first class, but there were also only 8 first class seats. The first class cabin looked almost comical with so much space between the rows. I didn’t see it mentioned, but if these interiors mean that the Airbus will have 12 or 16 first class seats, I’m willling to give up a foot of extra space that I never used anyway in exchange for more successful upgrades.

  8. Alaska planes have already had power at every seat for many years… I actually flew in their first retrofitted A320 last month from SFO to SEA in first class. I really enjoyed the tablet holder because it allowed me to watch my shows while I was eating on the tray table, which is normally very hard to pull off – to me it was innovative. The cup holders were also a nice touch since I didn’t have to worry about turbulence tipping over my drink. My biggest complaint about the experience was their choice of a single “west coast” song that was being blasted throughout the cabin during boarding in an infinite loop. Other passengers noted the annoyance of it as well; it was like some sort of water torture.

  9. I think people overlook how good/innovative the VX Y product was. They had a great seat compared to any old Y seat which is to say it is head and shoulders above any slim line experience. On top of that, the entire entertainment/food experience was terrific and unlike any other carrier I have seen.

    Yeah, you can argue a VX frequent flier now gets complimentary upgrades so they should be happy but I for one would be thinking I got the short end of that stick.

  10. Footrests for the very tall (I am 6-6) decrease leg room, at least the do on AA’s widebody PE seats. We’ll see how these are.

  11. This is absolutely horrific. They should be ashamed of themselves for calling this an improvement, and anyone who takes them seriously should be ashamed of themselves too. I’m actually disgusted that we’ve gotten to the point where people can discuss the various benefits of different 40” pitch First Class products with barely any (shitty) food provided and not realize that there’s something wrong with the whole system. This new Alaska thing looks more like premium economy. When Aeroflot Russian Airlines provides vastly better seats, better service, and actual full hot meals, isn’t it time for US-based carriers to rethink how they treat premium (well, all, really) passengers?

  12. I’m confused as to why people are complaining about the pitch. 40″ is way more than the 20-25″ offered by UA, AA or DL.

  13. Hey Lucky, you should mention the ability to stream online services (Netflix, Hulu, HBO) in the entertainment section. It’s a big deal. I wonder if we can stream sports too from PlayStation Vue or similar.

    I’m 5’1,” and the footrest is a massive deal for me. My heels don’t touch the ground which hurts my back and knees.

    I too will miss the patterned bulkhead.

  14. N607AS, N609AS, N611AS, N612AS and N619AS have all been upgraded to the new interiors. If you’re flying one of the 737-700s theres a good chance you’ll get one of these planes.

  15. @dusty you’re getting something wrong here. 20-25″ is not possible – the lowest anyone has gone in Y (as far as I’m aware) is around 28″. When I saw 20-25″ is not possible I mean that literally – there’s no physical way to fit a human in a seat with that pitch. Alaska’s new 40″ F is the least pitch in First I’ve ever seen or heard of. It’s basically long-haul premium economy, where I believe 38″ is not uncommon.

  16. As a loyal Virgin America customer for many years, I’ve remained mostly loyal to Alaska during the merger. I was curious if they would take the innovative aspects of Virgin America and combine them with the elevated customer service that Alaska is known for. Seeing this new interior is pretty big disappointment so far.

    Over the years of flying Virgin America, I came to appreciate the truly “elevated flying experience” that was provided. Each time I boarded a Virgin flight, it felt like something more special than a short domestic flight. The purple/pink mood lighting (unique in the US), Personal Television at each seat, the ability to order food and drink on demand rather than from a trolley, and the overall upscale and refined ambiance onboard, definitely set them apart from other US airlines. Sure, Virgin lacked the refined customer service that Alaska excels in, but it was generally more than adequate in my experience.

    The new Alaska Airbus interior is unremarkable at best. There’s nothing from the pictures above that say “elevated flying experience” or “west coast vibe” to me. These pictures could very well be a new JetBlue, United, American, or even Southwest cabin (if they added First seats). Not to say that it’s bad, it’s just not unique in any way.

    I get that things had to change. I get that there are now more First seats and ability to upgrade. I get that Alaska crews are generally excellent to deal with. I get it. However, after flying Alaska 737s a few times, I now find myself purposefully booking Airbus flights because the old Virgin cabin is so much better. When Airbus flights aren’t available, I’ve been booking Delta flights instead. I value experience over mileage loyalty. Is this what Alaska was hoping for in the merger? With Delta investing in great cabin updates and Delta having generally good customer service, what is there to set Alaska apart out of SeaTac now?

    I would really love the chance to meet the customers that were researched over 2 years to come up with this. What exactly were the best things pulled from the Virgin experience, music and some mood lighting? The Virgin experience was much more than that, and it’s heartbreaking to see it fade away.

  17. So they will prioritize downgrading the Airbus interiors over upgrading the majority of the Boeing interiors…okaaayy…

  18. @dusty, people are complaining about the pitch because VX offered 52″ in F.

    I flew on one of these last week — an A321 — from SEA to SFO. It is a significant improvement over the 70s’ style, campy AS experience (I, for one, will *not* miss the fugly bulkhead “designs”), but the seats are a clear downgrade from what VX had 10 years ago. Outside of transcons, though, AS is still my best option out of my home airport (SFO) for most routes, since UA is the main competition, so I guess this is better than nothing.

  19. @EB “LOOKED” as opposed to actually flying in those seats are two different things. That space is used when the seats are reclined for sleeping, which many people do. Perhaps very little on a 20 min flight, but transcons, early mornings sure…it was put to good use.

  20. @Jordan I have actually flown in those seats. It’s a good point that if you want to fully recline and sleep they are a huge step up from a typical first class domestic. I’ll still take a bigger first class cabin.

  21. DaKine is spot on. So true!

    This blogger doesn’t know a damn thing about Alaska Airlines (and many of the silly things he writes about). Get your facts straight! Alaska’s fleet has had power ports at virtually every seat for many, many years (like, a decade or two).

    Your whining that “Alaska, on the other hand, offered some of the most basic planes in the US…(fortunately over the past couple of years they’ve been working on adding power ports)” is ignorant nonsense.

  22. @ Greg — You’re telling me that I don’t know what I’m talking about while you claim that Alaska has had power ports at every seat for 10-20 years? Really? The first Alaska plane got power ports in the fall of 2013, so just over five years ago. And it has been a really drawn out process, and it’s only the past couple of years where there have reliably been power ports. So you’re right, I probably should have said it’s only the past couple of years where their planes reliably have them, rather than saying they’ve added them in the past couple of years.

    But pray tell what Alaska planes you were flying 1-2 decades ago with power ports?

  23. I slept better the last time I took a Virgin red-eye in first class than I do in AA’s transcon business class. That big white seat was plush and cozy, versus a tight hard little bed. A real shame to see it go.

  24. @DaKine

    “the lofty dreams of some jetsetting blogger who has never operated even a lemonade stand.”

    Lol. Well Ben doesn’t need anyone to defend him, obviously. But that’s such a stupid comment it can’t be ignored. OMAAT and PointsPros have provided gainful employment for many people over the past decade and allowed Ben to amass significant personal wealth. But he knows nothing about running a business…

  25. First of all, thanks for the kind words, BrewerSEA.

    To DaKine, what on earth are you even going on about? I pointed out that Alaska and Virgin America are very different. Even Alaska Airlines agrees with me on this. It was the basis of their ad campaign during their merger about how “different works.”

    You say this:

    “Anyone who is actually informed about that business knows it is basically the worst ever, it basically has a negative profit since inception.”

    Sorry, I don’t understand what you’re trying to say, and if you’re being sarcastic or not? If you’re being sarcastic and think the merger has actually been great, I’d just like to point out that Alaska’s stock is currently down about a third compared to when the merger happened. Wild guess on my part, but I think the shareholders were probably hoping for better.

    And let me be clear, I used to be a frequent flyer with Alaska, I love their frequent flyer program, and I’m still an MVP Gold. I think they’re a great airline. I still sort of view them as a greyhound of the skies, but I really do like them. They have friendly employees and a personal touch you don’t get on many other airlines.

    So I’m not sure where your venom comes from here.

    PS: If you’re going to insult me, suggesting I haven’t run a lemonade stand is the wrong insult. I’ve quite literally run my own “lemonade stand” (aka this blog and associated business) for about a decade. The insult I think you’re trying to throw at me (or which people usually throw at me) is that I’ve never worked for anyone else. And that is true…

  26. @Alex – If 40 is the worst you have ever seen then you have never flown US3. UAL is 38-39, AA is 38-39 and DL is 36-37. 40 looks great by non-lie flat seats. And I fly the VS plane often in first and yes you do have more pitch but it is a waste except for the window passenger trying to get out. Granted, 45 would have been better but is still the the biggest out there for dom fc

  27. @Richard I must admit that’s true, I do avoid domestic F (or anything domestic that’s not JetBlue) like the plague. For some reason I was thinking 42-46 was more like the norm. 36-39 is even worse…in fact that’s literally worse than many Y+ products. I don’t understand why this is considered acceptable.

  28. @Lucky

    Well put and said, everyone likes to be an internet bad ass these days and generally it’s the non confrontational types who wouldn’t say anything like that in person.

    Have to agree, Alaska has the best mileage plan, but has been riding the coattails of their customer service for far too long. Everything about their experience is mediocrity, but I guess you could say the same thing for all us airlines. People pine for an EK F experience on a 4 hour domestic flight, just ain’t gonna happen.

  29. 1) In short, I completely agree with what Andrew wrote above.

    2) This IS an elevated experience for Alaska fliers…but it’s a definite come-down from what Virgin America passengers were used to on VX…

    /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

    @Stvr…”What happened to an all Boeing fleet”? Seriously?!?!? Alaska, which was an all-Boeing fleet, BUT they bought Virgin America…which was an all-Airbus fleet…where have you been hiding?

  30. I’m surprised at the negative words around Alaska’s flight experience. Admittedly I’m a loyal Alaska flyer, 75k and based in Seattle so I understand the airline is well suited to me. Nevertheless I’ve been A list preferred for Southwest, and top tier UA in the past. I consistently fly Delta and have flown too many American flights.

    When it comes to VX flights, I dislike their planes a lot. While there are a lot of great ideas in their design, the upholstery is worn, the padding compacted, upgrade space limited and the seats do not suit my body at all as I often disembark with kinks in my neck. If you have a sport jacket you can only hang it from the seat in front of you in first class (where it often just rests partially on the floor) or you can crumple it up if you don’t get upgraded. So I’m very happy to see the switch over to Alaska’s cabin design including seats that I find more comfortable (and the most comfortable aside from Delta’s economy seats which are wider in general). Alaska’s planes are in far better repair and it shows as I rarely experience delays or issues with maintenance (almost a guarantee with AA or UA). As for TVs, I rarely see people watching them and more notice folks reading or using laptops, tablets and the like. Unless I’m flying an international flight (7+ hrs), I find the TVs more of a nuisance than benefit.

    My only major disappointment with the Alaska “renos”: they didn’t create a lie flat for their transcons. They had a great opportunity to do this when redoing the Airbus.

    I’m really surprised at Lucky’s “greyhound in the sky” comment. It might be time to ride a southwest plane, wait in an airport while United tries to fix their plane, get treated poorly by an AA steward after a 5hr delay, or get crammed in another MD88 with Delta. Also don’t forget the benefits of Gold plus tiers of no change fees. That is enormous value.

    The one airline that does compete with Alaska is JetBlue. Some of their planes are also getting tired but the service is exceptional and Mint is about as good a domestic flight experience as I’ve had.

  31. I mostly fly from LAX to either Kennedy or Newark. I’ve been a loyal Vx since it’s inception. And made the transition to Alaska. The planes are a hodge-podge of both airlines. And this past year I really noticed that Vx’s were better designed but falling apart, while Alaska seemed like they were just poorly designed and old. I was very sad to see Vx go, because everything about it (except limited destinations) was great. I was so surprised to get on an old Alaska plane a few months ago with no TV, and I couldn’t download the app in time to be able to use it — maddening. I’ve also, since then, seen surprised passengers realize they need a device and a charger AND the app to be entertained at all on those flights — that’s 5-6 hours of staring at the seat in front of you with no screen or anything to do. I just find it all a cost saving move from the airline, with much of these “upgrades” just cutting costs.

  32. Interesting that Alaska is using the same type of meal trays that Delta was using up until 2 years ago.

  33. I can’t stand the older revision of AS F seats. Not enough recline, way too heat absorbent and not comfortable. But still better than the Y Recaro revised seats. Hopefully these new sets are better. I’m not hopeful, though. The body testers from AS don’t seem to match mine. They should have hired the butt doubles that did the work for VX 🙂

  34. Only a matter of time before they dropped the IFE.
    Between the cost of upgrading the hardware every few years, the maintenance and the additional fuel costs, it was inevitable once tablets became popular.
    With 5G coming, it was inevitable.

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