Getting a bit of extra room on board Alaska Airlines flights will soon come with a price tag attached, but also a few extra benefits. The company is preparing to roll out “Preferred Seating” bundles which will offer not only extra legroom but also a complimentary drink and priority boarding. Mileage Plan members will continue to have free access to these seats, though it is unclear if they’ll also get the free drink. The new bundles are reportedly coming online at some point in Q2 ’15.
And, while it is great (at least for the business) that the company will be opening up that ancillary revenue avenue, it does present some challenges. For starters, there are not all that many Preferred seats available on the planes. Basically it is just exit rows and the bulkhead. Compared to the other carriers offering extra legroom seats (which is most of the competition these days) that number is rather anemic. The price point for the seats also seems rather low to me. The company has three price points, depending on flight distance, and the most expensive (flights over 2000 miles) is only $50 while the cheapest (flights less than 1250 miles) is only $15. I think the company is leaving money on the table at these price points, though I suppose that’s probably good news for customers.
The rates are also fixed which suggests that the company does not have the necessary GDS integration to offer dynamic pricing on the product. Dynamic pricing for extra legroom seating is something which competitors like United Airlines and JetBlue are very keen on and JetBlue recently commented that getting those systems running properly has increased the realized revenue in that area significantly. I don’t doubt that Alaska Airlines will get there eventually, but this version of the plan is only barely a small step down that path. Lots more to come on this front, I’d bet. Though not for a while.
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