Alaska Airlines will begin flying its new domestic first class seat – which the rest of the world knows better as ‘business class’ – from this month, along with high-speed WiFi suitable for streaming video above the clouds.
The new first class seats, supplied by Recaro but redesigned for Alaska Airlines, are set to a 40” pitch and padded with memory foam.
From tip to tail, tablet holders – which can be adjusted to suit a smartphone – take the place of in-seat TV screens: Alaska Airlines is not the first to go down this path when it comes to its domestic fleet, and it certainly won’t be the last.
Pleasingly, even the economy seats have their own AC and USB sockets, both of which have been conveniently located on the seat-back rather than being tucked away between or under the seats.
To make the most of that BYO tech, Alaska Airlines is ramping up the installation of a faster Gogo Internet service, which should feature on most of its Airbus and Boeing fleet by next year.
The cabin’s refreshed colour palette adopts relaxing neutral tones with pops of Alaska’s signature blue, while the ambient lighting similarly works its way through “calming, cool blue hues developed by lighting and color experts to complement the human body’s natural circadian rhythm… to promote an uplifting energy during the day and calming energy into the evening.”
As part of the upgrade, Alaska Airlines will standardise the first class cabin of its single-aisle Airbus and Boeing jets to 12 seats (the old Virgin America Airbus jets had eight first class seats, but with 55 inches of pitch) and a 24-seat Premium Class section.
The unified seat and cabin will sweep away the last vestiges of Virgin America, which Alaska Airlines bought out 2016. The cabins will also be fitted to Alaska’s factory-fresh Boeing 737 MAX 9 jets, the first of which is due out of the hangar mid-year.
Alaska Airlines says that a third of its fleet – including all Airbus jets obtained through the Virgin America take-over, plus Boeing 737-700s and three new Boeing MAX 9 planes – will sport the new seats “by early 2020”, although there’s no timeline stretching beyond that for the remaining two out of three jets.
Clearly on a roll, Alaska Airlines also plans to open an all-new flagship lounge at its Seattle-Tacoma Airport hub mid-year.
Perched on the rooftop of the North Satellite terminal, the sprawling 15,800ft² (1,400m²) space boasting a cocktail bar, fireplace and sweeping views of the runways and Mt Rainer. As to the design, the airline suggests you think “living room with a barista”.
Qantas’ top-tier Gold, Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers plus Qantas Club members are able to use Alaska Airlines lounges at Seattle and Los Angeles provided they are travelling on an Alaska flight which connects to or from a Qantas international flight – a non-uncommon pattern for Australian business travellers headed to the home of Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing and other giants.