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* Alaska Airlines acquisition of Virgin America to be finalized in 2019
* Merger will create world’s 5th largest airline
* Expansion will include upgraded on-board amenities and airport lounge expansions
Alaska Airlines announced its acquisition of Virgin Airlines for $2.6 billion late last year, but the details of the “merger” with regard to Virgin’s fate have been left to speculation until now. An announcement posted on both of the airline’s websites confirms that Virgin America will be completely be taken over by its Seattle-based parent company, Alaska. Virgin’s iconic logo and the company’s brand identity as a whole will be erased to formulate a new, cohesive identity with Alaska Airlines.
Virgin Airlines has become a popular choice for West Coast fliers because of its California-cool branding and aesthetically-pleasing ambiance that included moody neon lighting in the cabin, unique air safety “musicals” and free chocolate chip cookies pre-flight. This decision to ditch the Virgin brand in favor of Alaska’s was finalized despite protests from loyal Virgin America fans.
Both airlines have a loyal fan base, whose frequent fliers appreciate their commitment to a pleasant in-flight experience and affordable airfare costs. The press release also attempts to reassure Virgin loyalists that some of the San Francisco-based airline’s beloved features will be retained in the integration stating, “the combined airline will adopt many of the brand elements that Virgin America enthusiasts love about their favorite airline, including enhanced in-flight entertainment, mood lighting, music and the relentless desire to make flying a different experience for guests. The goal is to create a warm and welcoming West Coast-inspired vibe.”
Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden announced that the integration process will begin in early 2018 and is expected to be finalized in 2019. However, Alaska has already begun taking action to expand the airline in the last three months since the merger deal was closed in December. Last month, Alaska Airlines expanded their services to 21 new markets and added an additional 25 new daily departures out of major cities in California including San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco (Virgin’s former territory).
In addition to offering more flights and departure times to West Coast fliers, the airline will also offer several new premium services and amenities, including implementing all Boeing 737 planes with high-speed WiFi, offering free on-board chat with programs like What’s App and iMessage, upgraded dining and beverage selections including craft beer and gourmet meal options, new uniforms for airline crew designed by Luly Yang and expanded airport lounges in major U.S. airports including New York’s JFK and Los Angeles’s LAX.