Today is the last day that members of the Virgin America Elevate program can book redemptions with airline partners (other than parent Alaska Airlines). In reality there is not much of a loss taking place, in that the only partner that has a worthwhile redemption is Virgin Australia. Per an earlier post partners Singapore Airlines, Emirates, and Hawaiian really didn’t have a method to pickup a valuable booking, but Virgin Australia does have very valuable, and last minute, redemptions that will be missed.
We arrived into Vienna airport late. Immigration was fast and efficient, and was handled directly off the plane. The jetway literally emptied into an immigration booth, and our family was processed and then walked directly into the baggage claim area. After collecting our luggage, we took a cab from the airport to the hotel.
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.
Our Austrian Airlines flight from London to Vienna was originally scheduled at 7:25pm, but was delayed about an hour. Fortunately, the lounge display system kept us informed, and we left from the United Club to gate A18 45 minutes before boarding. It sounds like a lot of time, but the walk from the lounge to our gate was 25 minutes. Once we arrived at gate A18 we waited another 30 minutes or so before we boarded. Terminal 2 (The Queens terminal) at Heathrow is very nice with high ceilings and wide open areas. We enjoyed walking through and hanging out in the space before we boarded.
After our Delta One flight landed at London Heathrow, we disembarked, passed through immigration, and collected our luggage to proceed to LHR Terminal 2. This is the terminal were Austrian Airlines flies in and out of (as well as the majority of Star Alliance airlines). Within Europe we would be taking three flights before returning to the U.S. – Austrian Airlines London to Vienna and then Vienna to Copenhagen, and SAS Airlines Copenhagen to Frankfurt. The SAS flight was a part of our United/Lufthansa redemption coming home. The Austrian Airlines LHR-VIE-CPH segments worked best for our itinerary, and they were all paid coach. I’ve had a United Club membership for years and decided to use it to visit the United Club at London Heathrow Terminal 2. Check in with Austrian was smooth and after a little bit of walking we found ourselves at the entrance to the United Club.
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.
After landing in Seattle, we exited security and made our way to collect our bags at the Alaska belt. Alaska has a 20-minute guarantee on receiving checked baggage, and I’ve found them to be consistently quick at getting your luggage out. Through a mix-up on our initial Alaska flight, we needed to collect our bags and re-check-in for the international Delta segment. Our layover was 4 hours and we had more than enough time for this exercise.
After spending sometime at Anthony’s restaurant in the central terminal, we walked over to the America Express Centurion Studio Lounge in the shallow part of the B gates. There were 4 of us and American Express only allows 2 visitors per card at a time; fortunately, Susan and I have our own cards and so the 4 of us could enter the lounge.