Alaska Airlines To Limit The Number Of First Class Passengers

Airlines are going to great lengths to implement social distancing measures onboard the aircraft amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And now, the airline is taking some new measures. From late-March, Alaska Airlines has been capping the number of First Class guests onboard.

Alaska Airlines, Capacity, Flights Cut
Alaska Airlines is limiting the number of First Class passengers to promote social distancing onboard. Photo: Getty Images

Alaska Airlines implements social distancing measures

In the current aviation climate, passengers are concerned about contracting and spreading the coronavirus amid the global pandemic. This is particularly true with the nature of air travel as passengers are seated in confined spaces for many hours.

As a result, airlines are starting to implement social distancing measures. Previously, Alaska Airlines has focused on altering its onboard service. This includes eliminating meal service in all cabin classes, refusing to refill used cups, ending hot towel service, and allowing flight attendants to wear gloves during service.

Meal service
Alaska Airlines is temporarily ending meal service onboard all flights. Photo: Alaska Airlines

Now, personal space is a big deal and the (hopefully) future oneworld member has released details on social distancing onboard planes. First Class generally does offer some more room to stretch out and fewer seatmates. However, on a narrowbody aircraft, passengers are still in relatively close contact with each other. As a result, Alaska Airlines is capping the number of passengers in the First Class cabin. Although, there are not a large number of flights where this will materially impact travelers given the huge drop in demand.

First Class Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines is capping the number of First Class passengers. Photo: Alaska Airlines

In coach, passengers can take a number of measures. This includes switching seats online, on the Alaska Airlines app, or requesting an agent to switch seats for more personal room. Onboard, passengers can ask flight attendants about opportunities to maintain social distance by switching seats. However, in the case of weight and balance concerns, this may not be possible in some situations.

Alaska Airlines
Onboard, flight attendants can help find new seats for passengers seeking to maintain social distance. Photo: Alaska Airlines

Interestingly, however, is that Alaska Airlines has issued the following policy on passenger social distance onboard:

“If we are unable to properly distance our guests on the aircraft, we will allow them to cancel or rebook their travel as part of our existing flexible travel options”

Although, given the general lack of travel demand, this also seems like an unlikely scenario.

The airline is offering to rebook travelers if social distancing cannot be maintained onboard aircraft. Photo: Alaska Airlines

Should other airlines follow?

Premium travelers earn a lot of money for airlines. This is why, routinely, airlines launch new initiatives to go after these passengers. In a sense, Alaska Airlines is doing just so to try and get premium passengers to choose Alaska by promising more space. However, blocking seats upfront is a big deal. Unlike intra-European business class, First Class in the United States on narrowbodies like 737s and A320s is a pretty common 2-2 configuration.

American First Class
Most First Class cabins in the US are in a 2-2 configuration. Photo: Jay Singh – Simple Flying

In all likelihood, Alaska Airlines probably does not have enough passengers to fill those seats given current demand. This is what makes this move a little more palatable to the airline’s bottom line. Whether other airlines should follow is a different story. In many cases, this policy can be maintained simply due to the lack of travelers. On the other hand, this policy does guarantee that First Class customers can still have personal space. And, for perhaps a few people, this could make a big deal on essential travel.

Do you think Alaska Airlines is making the right move here? Should other airlines also cap the number of First Class passengers? Let us know in the comments!