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.