Alaska Airlines made this announcement on its blog:
Today, we’re excited to take you inside our retrofitted Airbus aircraft. Months of research, focus groups and iteration went into the new cabin, but we started by asking a single question: What makes you comfortable on a plane?
Turns out, your comfort is about a lot more than ergonomics, though that’s part of it. You want to feel more in control – control of your space, your belongings and, ultimately, your flight experience.
“Our goal is not to be different for different’s sake,” explained Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines vice president of marketing. “We want to be different for our guests – and we believe the details matter.”
We continued to iterate with our partners until we got it right. The new design takes your comfort to heart – with custom memory foam seats, tablet holders to fit your mobile device of choice, headrests with six adjustable settings and more.
“Comfort is about the seamlessness of all interactions you have on board,” said Johannes Lampela, BMW Designworks director of design, who worked on the cabin retrofit. “The modern traveler wants to be in control, not dictated by their space. This means they need to have freedom to put things in different places.”
Here’s a closer look at the thoughtful touches throughout the new cabin:
“We wanted a calming environment because travel can be so stressful,” Woerner said. “You should feel comfortable and welcome the moment you step on board.”
For this reason, we opted for neutral colors, blending warm and cool grays and blues. When you walk from the front to the back of the plane, the colors transition from lighter to darker shades, creating a spacious first impression and a sense of depth. The goal was to produce a space that’s pleasing on the eye no matter where you’re seated.
To infuse our brand personality into the space, brighter brand colors are used as accents. Pops of fun blues can be found in elements such as the seat-back literature, mood lighting and flight attendants’ uniforms, working together to create a cohesive look.
To ensure optimal comfort, our seats were tested by people sitting on them for hours at a time, mimicking a long-haul flight.
The cushions are hand-cut out of several memory foam parts, creating a design unique to Alaska Airlines.
You’ll also find a six-way adjustable headrest, accommodating more body types and giving you more control.
First class luxuries
We took great care to ensure our first class guests get a remarkable experience as soon as they walk on the plane.
When you think of a premium vehicle seat, chances are you think of a car, not a plane. To bring in a feeling of luxury, we looked to the automotive industry for inspiration.
“For our first class seats, we wanted a sports car, performance-driven look,” Woerner said. “We’re a performance-driven, on-time airline, so this was important to us.”
We carefully considered the materials and shape of the memory-foam cushion. A mix of textiles and quilting techniques were used for the seat covers to create a richer look, much like you’d find in a luxury car.
“Alaska wanted the first class seats to feel like a seamless transition from your premium vehicle,” said Martin Rehmet, regional sales director of German seat manufacturer Recaro. “The sculpted seat hugs more of your body and back.”
In their ergonomic and sleeping studies, Recaro looked at the first class seat cushion from all angles to figure out the best way to support a passenger’s feet and bring them into a relaxed position.
“A footrest is the best option to support people of varying heights,” said Rehmet. “It’s also more supportive, visible and intuitive to use than a leg rest.”
In addition to a foot rest, the first class seat features cup holders – conveniently placed in the arm rest – and a side pocket for storing your reading material.
Every seat in the aircraft also has a custom tablet holder (see below) and a stretchy mesh seatback pocket to give you more flexibility to use the space as you see fit.
A multitasker’s seatback
There’s no question: the modern traveler wants to be able to multitask. Whether watching a show while texting a friend, or sending emails while charging your phone – you want to be able to utilize more than one screen or device at a time.
To make our seats more conducive to multitasking, we built a custom tablet holder at eye level that can adjust to fit most mobile devices. A clip slides up and down, allowing you to find the right fit, and a non-slip shelf folds down to keep your device secure.
“It’s not a question of whether people want to bring their own device – they do,” said Recaro’s Rehmet. “We made the tablet holder more accommodating than you’ll find on other major domestic carriers.”
To enable easy charging of your device while it’s in use, the new seatbacks also feature a USB port next to the tablet holder. A power outlet remains under the tray table.
By keeping your mobile device in a hands-free position at optimal viewing height, the tray table is left open for food and other essentials. In premium class, you’ll find an additional cup holder in a more protected spot.
The seatback pocket is also bigger and more forgiving, made with a stretchy, see-through fabric. Taken together, these elements give you more freedom and control to use the space as you please.
Alaska Airlines also released further information on the transformation:
Starting this month, guests flying on Alaska Airlines will experience a comfortable and modern new cabin, as the West Coast airline shifts into high gear retrofitting its Airbus fleet. The upgraded cabin is the result of two years of customer research and combines the best features of Alaska Airlines and Virgin America, along with many thoughtful enhancements to make the travel journey comfortable, hassle-free and productive.
“Just two years after acquiring Virgin America, we’re thrilled to introduce a modern cabin that aligns the onboard experience across our fleet,” said Ben Minicucci, president and COO at Alaska Airlines. “After extensive feedback from our guests and in collaboration with our partners, we’ve infused the Alaska Airlines cabin with key brand elements from Virgin America – the result is a premium experience at an affordable price.”
Alaska’s new cabin features include:
- 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.
Alaska’s Airbus fleet of A319, A320 and A321 aircraft are being updated in phases this year and by early 2020, 36 percent of the mainline fleet will feature the new cabin interior – including the entire Airbus fleet, Boeing 737-700s and three new Boeing MAX 9 planes. The retrofitted planes will bring consistency to the guest experience across the Alaska fleet, and expand the First Class and Premium Class sections with 12-seats and 24-seats respectively, offering more guests the option of an elevated experience. Alaska will take delivery of its first MAX 9 this summer, which will feature the new cabin interiors.
Alaska is adding this decal on its aircraft by the front door:
Photos: Mark Durbin.
“Our guests are at the center of everything we do,” said Andrew Harrison, Alaska Airlines’ executive vice president and chief commercial officer. “From relaxing in our lounges to being in the air, we know travelers want more control and comfort, while also enjoying the same low fares and great service. So that’s exactly what we did – we created a relaxing travel experience, so that our guests can focus on where they’re going and leave the rest to us.”
The new cabin is part of a series of investments Alaska has made to its onboard offering over the last 12 months, which includes advanced, high-speed satellite Wi-Fi, free chat, free movies and entertainment, and a new rotating seasonal menu. The menu offerings feature fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and feel-good snack and beverage options from beloved West Coast brands including Salt & Straw, Luke’s Organic and Fremont Brewing. By 2020, the majority of the mainline fleet will have the new satellite Wi-Fi installed.
The unveiling of the new cabin interior comes on the heels of Alaska Airlines’ plans for a new 8,500-square-foot rooftop lounge at San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 2. Featuring stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, the lounge will feature warm finishes and a modern and welcoming vibe, along with generous amenities such as hand-crafted Starbucks beverages, made-to-order meals for purchase and an expansive bar program featuring local Bay Area draught beers and West Coast wines. The Lounge is expected to open in 2020.
In addition, as part of Alaska’s multi-year investment to refresh and expand its Lounge portfolio, the new flagship 15,800-square-foot lounge at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will open in the next few months. Alaska is also renovating its Lounges in Anchorage, Alaska, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. These renovations are expected to be completed in the next few months and will include a new barista station, made-to-order meals and additional seating, as well as an updated look-and-feel.