Virgin No More: Alaska Airlines To Discontinue Virgin America Brand By 2019

In an announcement on Wednesday, Alaska Airlines stated that it has decided to retire the Virgin America brand name, following a $4 billion merger between the two aviation giants late last year. While Virgin America would continue to operate in its usual hip and trendy manner for now, Alaska declared that the merged company’s flights would be flying under one brand sometime in 2019.

While the retirement of one of the United States’ most beloved airlines was an inevitable blow to Virgin’s loyal fans, Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines’ VP of marketing stated that the merged companies’ success on the West Coast is largely dependent on the aviation firm flying under one brand, according to a report from The Seattle Times.

“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.”

Virgin America is one of the nation’s most unique airlines, featuring several notable features such as mood lighting and boarding music to its flights. The overall quality of its service, as well as passenger comfort, are also among the most loved aspects of the airline. Alaska, for its part, assured Virgin’s loyal passengers that the unique airline’s personality would not be lost in the transition.

(The merged 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.”

While operating two separate brands has so far been the merged companies’ strategy, Alaska has nonetheless continued to pay the Virgin Group a royalty of up 0.7 percent for using the Virgin America name, according to a CNN Money report. Thus, with the retirement of the Virgin name, Alaska would be saving a significant amount of money that has so far gone exclusively to royalties.

Despite Alaska’s assurance that much of Virgin America’s vibe would remain, some signature features from the popular airline are still set to retire with the brand. Among these would be Virgin’s frequent flyer plan. Virgin’s popular pink and purple mood lighting would also be withdrawn, replaced by blue lights instead. The uniforms of the airline’s frontline staff would also be superseded by a new ensemble designed by Luly Yang, a popular fashion designer.

Alaska has announced some new improvements for its entire fleet, as well, some of which would be rolled out as early as next year. According to the airline, new first class seating would be introduced to Virgin’s fleet by Q4 2018. The new seating, which is stated to be up to 50 percent larger, would introduce 12 first class seats instead of Virgin’s current eight. Fans of Virgin’s Economy seats, which feature in-flight entertainment systems, need not fear, as the feature would be retained even after the brand is retired.

Apart from seating changes, Alaska and Virgin’s fleet would also be equipped with high-speed satellite Wi-Fi beginning in the fall of 2018. Free movies and TV episodes would also be made available for streaming on passengers’ mobile devices starting August this year.

If there is one particular issue that Alaska Airlines is yet to address, it is the manufacturer of choice for its combined fleet in the future. Over the years, Alaska has strictly adopted Boeing aircraft to its operations, while Virgin has remained notoriously loyal to Airbus. With regards to this particular issue, a spokesperson from Alaska Airlines has stated that for the next six years, at least, the firm would be flying a mixed fleet. A definitive strategy for the future of the airline would be fully decided before the end of 2017.

[Featured Image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]