In a presentation to investors, Alaska Airlines yesterday announced that it planned to charge extra for coach seats with extra legroom, like those in exit rows and bulkhead rows. The “preferred seating,” as it was referred to by an Alaska executive, will be packaged together with priority boarding privileges and a free drink and priced between $15 (for flights up to 1,250 miles) and $50 (for flights longer than 2,000 miles). Exit row and bulkhead seats boast between 7 and 9 extra inches of legroom.
The new product will be available for booking sometime during the first half of 2015.
Think of it as a poor man’s Economy Plus. No special seats, true, but plenty of extra legroom. And really, that’s what’s most important. The prices are reasonable, at least as initially envisioned. And it’s good for Alaska’s bottom line as well, expected to generate an extra $15 million in annual revenue with little increase on the cost side.
It’s all good, right? Maybe not.
The other side of the coin is that bulkhead and exit seats are now free, although to actually book them requires a rare combination of savvy, persistence, and luck. So Alaska’s new preferred seating product in large part amounts to simply adding fees for something that was previously fee-free. Viewed in that light, it’s a gouge.
Whether the move is perceived as one step forward and two steps back or two steps forward and one step back will likely depend on the viewer’s willingness and ability to pay extra for the convenience of easily booking more comfortable seats.
Reader Reality Check
What say you: a welcome product introduction, or just another gouge?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.