Virgin America offers padded leather recliner chairs in first class with foot rests and 55 inches seat back to seat back.
That’s incredibly generous for most domestic routes. American is shrinking their first class from a ‘generous’ 38 inches for their new domestic standard product. Already Delta offers just 36 inches in first class on many planes.
However it’s not competitive on premium cross country routes where American, Delta, United, and jetBlue all offer flat beds in business class.
Alaska Airlines is scrapping the generous Virgin America product. (They’re also looking at making their economy product worse with basic economy too.) Alaska has said they expect to compete on cross country flights selling coach seats and selling their forward cabin for less than competitors and upgrading passengers into it.
A reader that I regularly correspond with shared notes from his 45 minute conversation with a senior Alaska Airlines executive (senior enough to be appointed by the board). This reader is a San Francisco-based regular Virgin America customer unhappy with the product changes.
Alaska has several Airbus narrowbody planes on order (‘neos’). And this executive says that Alaska intends to take possession of several of them “and use them to compete with Mint, DeltaOne, etc. on transcontinental flights between [Los Angeles and San Francisco] to East Coast destinations like New York and elsewhere.”
The seats aren’t yet selected, but this executive “assured it’s not a question of ‘if’ but rather of ‘when.'”
I did not have the conversation with this executive myself, however I consider the reader to be reliable. The named executive is someone who would certainly be aware of, and driving even, these plans. Since they’re not yet firm things could change but I take it to mean that Alaska is looking seriously at how they operate a subfleet that can compete in important and lucrative markets, rather than walking away from this business segment.
Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America largely for access to and grow in important airports that they could get into on their own. Once in those markets they see the need to compete on product as well as price.