Alaska Airlines is in the middle of a massive renovation project called Virgin America. Last spring they announced that the Virgin America brand would be going away by 2019. Since that time (and probably before then) Alaska Airlines has outlined their mission to remake Virgin America into Alaska Airlines. It’s a long mission that includes a number of tasks, and recently they took another step in that process – ending the unique and stylish company emails that Virgin America sends to their customers.
The integration between Alaska Airlines and Virgin America has been going on since December of last year. That was when the Department of Justice approved the deal and the purchase of Virgin America closed. Alaska started the combining process with surprising swiftness, offering customers on both airlines cross benefits days after the announcement. On December 19th, 2016 members of both Virgin America Elevate and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan started receiving reciprocal benefits such as earning mileage credit and priority check-in and boarding on each other’s flights.
It’s an curious thing to watch one airline acquire another. Here in the United States we’ve watched eight large airlines combine into four over the last ten years. Delta with Northwest, United with Continental, Southwest with AirTran and finally American with US Air. All of them were different in nature, and all four of these combinations created four modern behemoth carriers.
Earlier this year Alaska Airlines announced the wind down process for the Virgin America brand, as well as their loyalty program called Elevate. One of the items that was clearly communicated in this announcement was the actual end date for the Elevate program, December 31st, 2017. At that time Elevate would be ended, and all existing Elevate members would be converted into the Alaska Airlines Mileage Program.
Today Virgin America operated the first revenue inaugural flight of the Airbus A321neo aircraft. Flight VX1 took off from San Francisco at 8:00am PDT and landed five hours later at Washington D.C.’s Regan Airport. The occasion was celebrated by both Airbus and Virgin America with cake and balloons at the gate, and commemorative pins and key chains handed out during the flight. The A321neo is Airbus’s newest version of their popular A320 family of aircraft. Virgin America was the worldwide launch airline carrier for the new aircraft produced by Airbus.
Virgin America has included new functionality into their website, which now includes Alaska Airline destinations and routes. The integration of Virgin America into Alaska Airlines has been progressing relatively fast, as far as airline integrations go.
In an unannounced move Virgin America and Comenity Capital bank have shut down the links for new applicants to both the standard and “Premium” versions of the Virgin America Visa Signature Cards.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted about elite status, and what my strategy and plans are for airline frequent flying. I’ve held elite status with Delta for many years including both Diamond and Platinum levels. I still enjoy flying with Delta, and operationally the airline is very good. I also find the Delta front line employees to be some of the best. They genuinely enjoy their jobs, and most of the time I see it reflected in my interactions with them.
Alaska Airlines has publicized their long term plan for integration of the Virgin America airline and its brand. One of the biggest questions on customer’s minds is if the Virgin America brand would exist in any form as a part of the new airline The answer to this is an emphatic NO. The new airline will retain the name Alaska Airlines and no dual-branding will be used. A specific date has not been published for this retirement, but it is estimated to occur in 2019.