Airlines

Alaska Airlines to retire Virgin America brand in 2019

Travel expert Edward Pizzarello weighs in

 

Virgin America will cease to exist in just a few years. 

Alaska Airlines announced Wednesday that the California-based carrier will be fully absorbed into one brand to create a more efficient and consistent experience. 

"Our goal from the very beginning of this merger was to become the go-to airline for people on the West Coast, with low fares, convenient flights, a premium product and genuine, caring service," said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Air Group in a statement.

"Three months in, we've dramatically grown our presence in California and are united behind a new purpose: Creating an airline people love."

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Although the Virgin name will cease to exist, the airline's parent company says it will adopt many of Virgin America's brand elements such as enhanced in-flight entertainment, mood lighting and music.

In addition to low fares, other enhancements will reportedly include:

--Better satellite connectivity on the entire fleet of Boeing 737 beginning in fall 2018 with the remainder Airbus fleet to follow with both fleets fully equipped with the satellite by the end of 2019.

--Alaska’s new First Class and Premium Class seating sections beginning in 2018, increasing the number of First Class seats by 50 percent

--Complimentary upgrades on Airbus aircraft will begin for the first time in late 2018 with Mileage Plan MVP Golds and above to be upgraded to First Class or Premium Class 75 percent of the time

--Free entertainment on passengers’ devices will become a permanent feature on its Boeing fleet with the same free movies and TV shows to expand to Airbus aircraft via Red entertainment system in August 2017

--Free Chat onboard (the first and only U.S. airline with this feature) allowing guests to stay connected with those on the ground via Facebook Messengers, WhatsApp and iMessage.

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"We spent the last 10 months conducting extensive research and listening carefully to what fliers on the West Coast want most," said Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines' vice president of marketing.

"While the Virgin America name is beloved to many, we concluded that to be successful on the West Coast we had to do so under one name - for consistency and efficiency, and to allow us to continue to deliver low fares."

The two companies merged in 2016 with Alaska Air Group Inc., buying Virgin America in a deal worth over $2 billion.