Alaska Airlines' new 'first class' (okay, business class) seat

By David Flynn, September 18 2017
Alaska Airlines' new 'first class' (okay, business class) seat

Alaska Airlines has pulled back the curtains on the airlines' new domestic first class seat – in a cabin which the rest of the world knows better as 'business class' – which will be fitted to the airline's 32 new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, due from 2018, and retrofitted to 11 Boeing 737-800 jets.

Based on the model CL4710 seat from Recaro, the design "features sculpted cushions that draw style inspiration from sports cars" and has been finished in a sombre business-like grey leather and cloth...

... rather than the caramel of Recaro's catalogue version, with several other modifications in place as well – although all we have to show right now is the base model Recaro seat.

“When you have a guest in your flight for four to five hours, that seat is everything," says Sangita Woerner, vice president of marketing at Alaska Airlines. "We want to make sure they’re comfortable and have enough personal space."

Premium seats are "a big deal" for airlines, Woerner stresses. "It's like a bed for a hotel."

Creature comforts for corporate high-flyers include fold-out footrests...

... a tablet holder built into the in-arm table...

... pockets and cubbyholes on the side and in front of the seats (Woerner says that ample pocket space was a commonly-requested feature from customers)...

... cocktail table trays, which Alaska Airlines has converted into recessed cup-holders...

... plus easily accessible AC and USB charging ports at the front of the seat.

Each seat is 20-21 inches wide and will reportedly deliver an additional five inches of legroom over Alaska's current first class seats.

Alaska Airlines – which earlier this year bought Virgin America a landmark US$2.6 billion deal and will move to consolidate the two brands under the existing Alaska Airlines banner – is the first airline to adopt the CL4710, which Recaro says has been in development for two years.

“It’s the optimum. It’s a very comfortable seat with a lot of different features, but it’s also a lightweight seat, which is also important,” espouses Mark Hiller, CEO of Recaro Aircraft Seating.

“Seating is not just about light weight or just about comfort or just about design. It’s really bringing those different things together.”


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Jul 2016

Total posts 109

It is a shame to see those white luxurious Virgin America seats disapear... 

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 266

Does anyone know WHY Airlines in NA constantly refer to their "business class seats" as First Class? Is it because none of them really have First Class any longer - or some never have? Feel like it really detracts from the International flight prestige. 

24 Feb 2012

Total posts 58

I can't say I know for sure but I can only imagine that it was always "First Class" and they never changed it with the introduction of Business Class in the late 70's (by Qantas I believe?). And from what I understand (again not 100% sure) it's only on domestic flights and American carriers do have business class on international routes. But an interesting point

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2585

For one thing, calling it 'first class' means airlines can charge for points-booked flights at the higher 'first class' rate rather than the lower 'business class' rate, requiring more points. For example, book an LAX-Seattle flight with Alaska Airlines using Qantas Points and you're given the option of economy class for 14,000 points or first class for 38,000 points, rather than 26,000 points at the 'business class' rate for what really is business class. A bit ridiculous, really!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2013

Total posts 209

Great question! IMHO and a lot of miles flown in "first class" domestically with the likes of AA, DL, UA and AS, the experience is more akin to International Premium Economy with QF or VA, so I've also wondered how and why the first class moniker is used for such an average product and experience.

11 Jun 2017

Total posts 3

I just flew this out of San Diego, I don't fully understand why Americans rate Alaskan so highly. No lounge in SD, and the seat wasn't so comfortable, I'm 6ft and it felt abit short, agreed Virgin America business class is miles ahead! 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2014

Total posts 52

VA domestic J is a better product, there's no doubt, but VA are also significantly more expensive. 

We are fortunate to get the great levels of service in the Aussie domestic J products but for the kms travelled, they're usually a lot more expensive than American domestic F.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

05 Nov 2014

Total posts 60

How awful.

Getting rid of the lovely Virgin America First Class seats for this Premium Economy seat masquerading as a "First Class" product!

Truly pathetic. It looks like the horribly cramped new Qantas 787 Dreamliner Premium Economy seat.

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