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.
I’m writing this post from The Loft, Virgin America’s lounge at LAX Terminal 3 on the night of May 10th. Tonight is the last night for this lounge to be open, and I happen to be flying into LAX this evening. Normally I would go directly from the airport to my go-to hotel at LAX, The Hyatt Regency. But since the club is closing I decided to stop by and pay one final visit, on the final evening of, Virgin America’s only lounge.
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.
Virgin America is planning to launch its first flight of the Airbus a321neo aircraft on May 31st, 2017 on its San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Washington’s Regan National Airport (DCA). The airline has had orders on the Airbus a321neo since 2010, well before any plans of a merger with Alaska Airlines. Alaska Airlines is an all-Boeing fleet (except for the smaller Embraer E175s run under Horizon Air). Virgin America by contrast is an all Airbus fleet.
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.
About 40 minutes before our flight we left the Loft lounge and proceeded to gate 35. It’s down the back stairs and a very short walk. Gate 35 is in a narrow corner of terminal 3. Waiting travelers are disbursed everywhere as there’s not much in the way of seating. After standing and waiting for about 15 minutes the gate agent called for first class to board.
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.
Per a few sources on Flyertalk, Alaska Airlines is planning to make an announcement tomorrow March 23rd, regarding the future of the Virgin America brand, and their strategy going forward. There are no details right now, but company employees have been updated, and asked to stay quiet until tomorrow morning at 5:00am, presumably Pacific time (my guess).
Rumors will probably start leaking out later today. Brad Tilden has publicly stated that the details of the Virgin America brand would be determined by the end of March, and tomorrow’s prospective announcement would be concurrent with Brad’s stated timeline.
I’m not going to add anything else until we truly know.