Last April Alaska Airlines announced it was going to acquire Virgin America for $2.6 billion. All through the fall we waited for the final announce of the merger to be completed. First it was end of September, then October and then November. Alaska wanted to close the deal in the fourth quarter, and the U.S. DOJ wanted (what it sounded like what it was going to be) a pound of flesh from Alaska. In the end Alaska promised not to code share on certain American Airline routes and on December 6th the DOJ approved the acquisition. Alaska then had to settle out a nuisance lawsuit filed by a group of travelers and travel agents, which it did handily on the very next day – December 7th. Then one week later (December 14th) the acquisition closed and Alaska Airlines owns Virgin America.
We’ve seen a lot of airline mergers over the last 10 years, including Delta, United, Southwest and American (with corresponding Northwest, Continental, AirTran and US Airways). They’re nothing new to US travelers, and this one will probably be more of the same. We usually have to wait, at least for a while, and see what elements of the different airlines stay, what goes away, and what gets morphed or changed as a part of the new carrier. It looks as if the Alaska – Virgin combination is going to be a little different in that Alaska is moving very quickly to initiate reciprocal frequent flyer benefits. Even on December 14th (the deal closing date) Alaska tipped their hand and showed us a bit of what they’re thinking in regards to both loyalty programs.
Starting Monday December 19th:
On the Alaska Airlines side:
- Alaska Mileage Plan members can earn Mileage Plan miles on Virgin America flights.
- Alaska Elite Mileage Plan members will receive priority check-in and boarding on Virgin America flights.
- Customers visiting the Alaska Airlines website can purchase Virgin America tickets at www.alaskaair.com
One the Virgin America side:
- Elevate members can earn Elevate points on Alaska Airlines flights.
- Elevate Gold and Silver members will receive priority check-in and boarding on Alaska flights.
- Customers can purchase Virgin America tickets at www.alaskaair.com
Additionally, it’s been confirmed with Alaska Airlines that miles flown with Virgin America after December 19th will count toward elite status on Alaska mileage plan.
— Jimmy Gottfredson (@JimmyatsevenR) December 18, 2016
A couple questions that are still outstanding include – at what rate vs. fare class will the miles accrue with Alaska Mileage Plan? And will this be reciprocal with Virgin America’s elevate plan? Another question I’m curious about if we’ll be able to purchase Virgin America tickets with Alaska Airlines e-credits, or even better with the Bank of America companion fares?
After December 19th another big date will be January 9th when:
- Virgin America Elevate Silver and Gold members will be able to status match to Alaska MVP and MVP Gold respectively.
- Alaska Mileage Plan members will be able to use miles for award travel on Virgin America.
Again weather this is reciprocal with the Elevate Plan at Virgin America is an outstanding question. If it isn’t, is because of a technology issue with the Virgin America platform? Or is a foreboding of Alaska’s dominance in the integration? And, of course, the other really big question is at what conversation RATE will Virgin America Elevate and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan points transfer at. Time will tell, and a bit sooner than some of us thought it would.