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Alaska Air Doubles Down on Discomfort

Alaska Airlines today announced “upgrades” to its aircraft, with new seats and power outlets set to be installed on all of Alaska’s Boeing 737-800, -900, and -900ER aircraft.

Good news first: When the reconfiguration is complete, by the end of 2014, Alaska will feature one power outlet for every new seat, or about three quarters of its fleet. In this age of ubiquitous personal electronic devices, that’s as much a necessity as it is a luxury.


The bad news concerns not the properties of the new Recaro seats, which are slimmer and have the literature pocket relocated toward the top of the seatback, but the number of them.

Because the new seats are thinner, simply swapping them in as replacements for the current seats would result in an increase in pitch, industry jargon for legroom. And with fuller flights and fatter flyers, the time has come for airlines to do just that. The industry-standard 31 or 32 inches of pitch in coach needs to be revised to accommodate the new reality.

Among U.S. carriers, JetBlue is alone in breaking with the decades-old standard, featuring 34 inches of pitch on most of its coach seats. That extra two inches makes a big difference, especially on longer flights.

Alaska could have done the same.

But instead of giving their customers more legroom, Alaska has opted to increase the number of new seats in its coach cabins, maintaining its current average seat pitch of 31 to 32 inches. What might have been an advance in consumer comfort will instead be a money-maker for the airline.

An opportunity to provide its customers with a real benefit. Squandered.

An opportunity to stake out some competitive advantage for itself. Squandered.

An opportunity to do the right thing. Squandered.

Reader Reality Check

How important is legroom to you?

Would you fly more often on an airline that featured an extra two inches of legroom?

This article originally appeared on

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