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Alaska Airlines To Add 'Premium Economy' Class On Its Jets

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
Alaska Airlines plans to join competitors in offering a premium economy section at the front of its coach cabins.

You may remember the good old days when a domestic airline seat came with free checked bags and a meal. Now just about all coach passengers have to pay for those things. Next year, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines will join competitors in offering a "premium economy" class with more legroom for a fee.

Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Harrison announced the upcoming reconfiguration of his airline's jets in New York Thursday.

"We believe this product is something that customers want, that they are demanding, that they will pay for and that will bring revenues up,” he said.

Harrison told Wall Street analysts that the extra legroom seats could add $85 million to Alaska Airlines' bottom line by the time the section is fully rolled out. He said the premium economy class will be added to larger Boeing 737 jets and Embraer 175s beginning late next year.

An Alaska Airlines spokeswoman said the premium class will appear as an upgrade option during the seat selection process. Elite members of the airline's frequent flyer program may get complimentary access to those more comfy seats.

Alaska said the seats in the premium economy section will come with three to four inches of extra legroom, priority boarding and possibly other perks. In a press release, the Pacific Northwest's dominant air carrier said it would disclose upgrade pricing closer to the rollout date.

Harrison said Alaska Airlines experimented with premium seating for the past year by offering bulkhead and emergency exit row seats as a paid upgrade option at time of check-in. That did not require aircraft reconfiguration as this more extensive premium section offering will.

Delta Air Lines, United and American have previously reconfigured many of their jets to add three to seven rows of extra legroom seating at the front of economy class.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.