Alaska Airlines is installing passenger power outlets on many of its planes.
It’s part of a switch to a new, slimmer seat design allowing the airline to squeeze more people onto its jets.
Powered seats will eventually be on many longer routes out of Anchorage, as well as Seattle and other larger Lower-48 destinations. But most other in-state flights, including those in Southeast, will not see any change.
The airline’s Marianne Lindsey says each seatback will have a standard AC power outlet, plus a USB connection. They will handle laptops, tablets, cell phones and similar devices.
“Something that our customers have told us once and again has been that they would love to have power,” she says.
The outlets are incorporated into new seats made by Recaro. The German company is known for its upscale luxury- and sports-car seats.
Lindsey says the airplane model provides the same amount of space as existing seats.
“It’s actually the same seat pitch and about the same size, the way that it’s designed in relation to the seat in front of it. And the seatback makes it feel roomier,” she says.
The seats are a couple inches thinner than current models. That allows the airline to install additional rows.
There’s been little comment on travel-advocacy websites.
But Douglas Kidd of the National Association of Airline Passengers points out the new design gets rid of some padding.
And Brandon Macsata of the Association for Airline Passenger Rights says the average American weighs about 25 pounds more than their 1960 counterparts.
“Yet, over than same time period, coach airline seats have either remained the same, or have even become smaller,” he says. “Alaska Airlines isn’t alone in their approach of cramming more seats into coach. American and Delta have done similar things with their newer aircraft.”
The $100-million transition will be gradual, starting this fall and continuing through the end of 2014.
Lindsey says the airline is already testing the seats.
“We’ve used them since November of 2012. We’ve been happy with them and the customers have been happy with them. So in a sense, we’ve kind of tested them and now we’re going to roll them out into our larger fleet,” she says.
Alaska Airlines will install powered seats on its Boeing 737-800, 900 and 900-ER aircraft. They will not be on 737-700s or 400s, including “combi” planes carrying both freight and passengers.
Lindsey says the company is also considering offering entertainment channels through its onboard wireless service.