Airlines are always looking for ways to segment their consumer base, in order to get as much revenue from each passenger as possible. Over the years, we’ve seen just about all major US airlines introduce extra legroom economy seating, intended both as a reward for elite member, and as an ancillary revenue opportunity.
In this post I wanted to take a closer look at Premium Class, which Alaska Airlines’ extra legroom economy seating. I’ve written about similar products offered by other airlines, including American Main Cabin Extra, Delta Comfort+, JetBlue Even More Space, and United Economy Plus.
In this post:
Alaska Premium Class offers extra legroom
Premium Class is the name of Alaska Airlines’ extra legroom economy seating, offering an average of an additional four inches of legroom compared to standard economy seating. Premium Class is typically located in the first several rows of economy, and also at exit rows.
Alaska offers Premium Class throughout its mainline and regional fleet, including on all Boeing 737s and Embraer E175s.
With airlines having continued to squeeze more and more seats onto planes over the years, the legroom in “standard” economy has become much more restrictive. As a result, Premium Class provides a more acceptable level of legroom, so that your knees aren’t pushed into the seat back in front of you.
Alaska Premium Class includes alcohol & early boarding
In addition to extra legroom, Alaska Premium Class offers two other primary benefits.
The biggest perk is that you receive free alcohol, including beer, wine, and spirits, on most flights over 350 miles. The airline will serve passengers at most two alcoholic drinks or one canned cocktail at a time. There’s no official limit to how many drinks you can have over the course of the flight, aside from the crew’s discretion (in other words, if you’re showing signs of being inebriated).
Alaska Premium Class also comes with Group B boarding, which is with Alaska MVP members.
Who gets Alaska Premium Class for free
While Alaska elite members receive unlimited complimentary first class upgrades on a space available basis, the reality is that those upgrades often don’t clear. One nice consolation prize is that elite members are also eligible for upgrades to Premium Class. However, there are some restrictions around which elite members can assign these seats in advance, and under what circumstances.
Here’s how access to Premium Class seating works for Alaska Mileage Plan elite members:
- Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold 100K and MVP Gold 75K members can select Premium Class seats at the time of booking, except when traveling on X fares, when they can only select them up to two hours before departure
- Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold members can select Premium Class seats at the time of booking when traveling on Y, B, H, K, M, L, V, S, or N fares; on Q, O, G, or T fares, they can select them up to 72 hours before departure, and on X fares, they can select them up to two hours before departure
- Alaska Mileage Plan MVP members can select Premium Class seats at the time of booking when traveling on Y, B, or H fares; on K, M, L, V, S, N, Q, O, G, or T fares, they can select them up to 48 hours before departure, and on X fares, they can select them up to two hours before departure
MVP Gold 100K, MVP Gold 75K, and MVP Gold members, can all upgrade one companion traveling on the same flight in the same reservation. If a reservation includes more than one companion, it’s not eligible for complimentary upgrades. Meanwhile MVP members only receive upgrades for themselves, and not for a companion.
Just for some context, the X fare class is for Alaska’s Saver fares, which is the carrier’s version of basic economy. As you can see, higher tier elites can select Premium Class at the time of booking on most fares, while lower tier elite members have to book more expensive fares to select Premium Class way in advance.
Alaska Mileage Plan and American AAdvantage offer reciprocal upgrades. Here’s how access to Premium Class seating works for American AAdvantage elite members:
- American AAdvantage Concierge Key, Executive Platinum, and Platinum Pro members, can select Premium Class seats at the time of booking
- American AAdvantage Platinum members can select Premium Class seats at the time of booking when traveling on Y, B, H, K, M, L, V, S, or N fares; on Q, O, G, or T fares, they can select them up to 72 hours before departure
- American AAdvantage Gold members can select Premium Class seats at the time of booking when traveling on Y, B, or H fares; on K, M, L, V, S, N, Q, O, G, or T fares, they can select them up to 48 hours before departure
The cost to purchase Alaska Premium Class
For those who don’t have access to complimentary Premium Class seating on Alaska, it’s possible to purchase these seats any time from when you ticket your reservation until departure. The cost is dynamic, and varies based on demand. So you won’t find consistent pricing in any particular market, but rather it could change based on the day of the week, the time of day, etc.
However, pricing for Premium Class seats for any particular flight is the same, meaning there’s no difference in pricing between seats on the same flight (so middle seats cost as much as aisle seats, etc.).
To look at some of Alaska’s shortest and longest flights, I see Premium Class available for only $6 on the short flight from Seattle to Portland.
Meanwhile I see Premium Class available for $115 on the long flight from New York to Anchorage.
Is Alaska Premium Class worth it?
Obviously if you’re eligible for complimentary upgrades to Premium Class, you should absolutely take advantage of that, since it’s not costing you anything extra. But what about for those who have to pay for upgrades? I’d say it depends.
Regular economy seats are so tight nowadays, so for many people, an upgrade to Premium Class isn’t about some amazing luxury, but rather it’s about having a basic level of comfort while flying. If you’re at all tall and are in a financial situation to do so, I definitely think there’s merit to upgrading to Premium Class. If you’d otherwise buy a drink or two, the cost is also much easier to justify.
Just keep in mind that airlines often price first class pretty reasonably nowadays, so also be on the lookout for decent first class fares. In some cases they may only be marginally more expensive than an economy fare with a Premium Class upgrade.
Alaska Premium Class offers an average of four extra inches of legroom, and it can certainly help make an economy flight more tolerable, given the limited pitch in “regular” economy. Fortunately most elite members are eligible for complimentary upgrades to these seats, but some might find value in paying to assign these seats, if they don’t otherwise have access to them.
What has your experience been with Alaska Premium Class?