Inside our new cabin: Thoughtful touches for the modern traveler

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:

Calming colors 

“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. 

One-of-a-kind seats

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.

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40 comments on "Inside our new cabin: Thoughtful touches for the modern traveler"

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  5. Wow, this is disappointing. First, you change all the flight schedules from DCA and IAD to SFO and back making them much less convenient (who waits to fly cross country until 9:30 or 10 am on a Monday morning?), and now you focus on cramming more people into the plane and remove the features that kept me loyal to Alaska after the Virgin buy out. The consistent upgrades to first class due to my mileage plan status are less of a draw looking at this. The monitors and entertainment options, as well as the first class seats, were the primary reason I remained loyal, with those gone I’m going to have to weigh my options regarding carriers for my business flights. Also, you’re wrong. I don’t want to watch movies on my phone on cross country flights, and I certainly don’t want to pack an extra tablet when I have efficiently packing in only carry-ons for a week long trip down to a science. This is ridiculous.

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  7. Recaro seats are not comfortable. The first class seats could have been at least two more inches wide and you have crammed in more seats on the entire plane giving much less leg room. The holder for a tablet or phone will not work very well when the person in front of you lays their seat back into the now less space. What’s up with the “divider” between the first class section. Who’s going to pay over $1,200 to have three seats right behind them? Even the food trays are marginal. What happened to the awesome Alaska Airlines that we have loved for many years! Give me an old 737 any day.

  8. I’m not sure how you can laud the comfort of the new seats without addressing that they have been reduced in size by two inches. Virgin planes made it possible for people to fly comfortably who struggle on other airlines. I’m a committed Alaska customer but it is a disappointing change in the wrong direction to, when given the opportunity, reduce seat size.

    • I agree the seats, otger than first class there are no serious changes for comfort. So the head rest adjusts, the seats are not wide enough to include a reasonable recline on long 5 – 6 hour flights.
      Comfort has gone out the door in favor of profits.
      Very sad

  9. Please bring back at least one “regular” beer on your flights…budweiser, Miller Lite, Coors. Not everyone likes craft beers!!!

  10. I love Alaska
    Have a credit card that helps with mileage
    I wish u had another morning flight from Chicago to lax 7 is so early
    I have to take an american flight to lax and Alaska home
    I do not like american

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  12. It looks like first class now has 3 rows instead of 2 – and much less space between rows. That’s unfortunate as one of the best parts of the current seat configuration is being able to get out of the row if you’re in the window seat, without the person in the aisle having to get up. I hope the new seats make up for it. Being 5’0″ tall – the foot rests might make flying more comfortable than just the leg rests do. Looking forward to trying out the new set-up.

  13. I’m interested in knowing how economy seats have been made more comfortable as I can’t afford to fly first class. Also, I’m disappointed to see the addition of basic economy seats. More leg room is needed.

  14. At 6’2″ and 315 lbs. I need all of the room I can get. Those new seats are excellent. Thanks for considering us big guys. My two metal hips need more room also.

  15. While it’s all good these improvements. The lack of a proper pocket in the front is a problem. My biggest gripe is that I’ve noticed the planes don’t seem to be cleaned properly anymore between flights. This is something I noticed with the last year as a frequent traveler on Alaska. Maybe you switched companies or not giving them enough time. But it is noticeable. You can even smell the bad odor many of the times. Please spend some attention to this. If you’re at a window seat you can see all the stuff people dropped on the side..

    • Hi Andy. Research showed our guests value price, schedule and network more than a lie-flat product for domestic, transcontinental flying. Lie-flat seats are not a strong consideration for transcon flyers, even those flyers who tend to choose first class. Comfortable seats were a top consideration, however.

  16. The pictures of the first class interiors on the old virgin planes look wonderful. They make almost wish I hadn’t retired several years ago.

  17. I’m really disappointed that you took out the lounge chair style seats in first class and replaced them with just another airline seat, no matter what it’s made of. Virgin America had it right and you just became yet another airline in the US. It’s time that airlines in the US got better not worse and you could have led the pack.

    • Hi Karin. Good questions! The first row will unfortunately not have a foot rest due to the bulkhead, as you noted. They will have a tablet holder connected to their tray table.

  18. Looking forward to flying in one of the new planes seats. I have back problems, which surgery two years ago did not solve. So I bring two items with me to try to make travel easier, especially long hauls from Seattle to Orlando. Killers. Glad to see new colors and changes always make people happier. Good Luck

  19. Please let us order food online when we make reservations for our flight s- right now, it’s only available on the App…easy to forget. Also, please do not make everything spicy … mild only – offer packets of hot chile pepper flakes/sauce or something if someone wants it hot.

  20. I have a severe speech impediment. Calling Alaska is not a good option for me. I understand Alaska has NO chat line. Correct?

    • Hi Eddie, thanks for reaching out. You can text your reservations questions to 82008. Does that help?

    • Hi Timothy. While I can’t say exactly when a retrofitted plane will serve the MCO to SFO route, our 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.

  21. The seats in your newer 737s are the MOST uncomfortable seats on someone’s back in the world. We always hope that we will get on an older plane and have the original seats. Please bring them back. Would love to try these on the Airbus planes.

    • We hope you enjoy the new seats. I just sat on one myself for 2 hours and loved it!

      • You sat on the new seat for 2 hours and loved it, but were you in a row with very little leg room and people right on top of you next to you so tou couldn’t move much? That is the ultimate test.

      • It was a full flight and I was in the back of the plane. I was pleasantly surprised by the seat comfort.

      • I loved the original airbus seats esp. The 1st class seats which were near lie flat perfect for red eye flights. But we cant let those high exoectations stand.

        Im with Koob recardo cant nake a comfortable seat. Ive got the medical bills to prove from flying koa to bos. Seriously dont have a car firm make aircraft seats. Get a company that makes a wide seat with a decent leg room. Then use air not heavy foom to contour your body.it weighs less then fooms.
        Think air bed.

      • Hi Terry, we appreciate the feedback. To clarify, we worked with German seat manufacturer Recaro, with decades of experience designing airplane seats. We just took inspiration from the car industry.

      • Have you tried our vegan/dairy-free popcorn, organic potato chips and all-natural beef jerky?

      • I agree with Terrydabear 100%. How can you take away near lie flat seats and say that a chair is more comfortable? You’ve shrunk the pitch over 20 “.