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.
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.”
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.
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?