After the Alaska Airlines and Virgin America merger comes the issues and concerns surrounding the airlines’ growing fleet. Questions are now being raised whether the Seattle-based airline will remain loyal to the Boeing brand or not. Thus, the future of the Virgin America Airbus jets still remains unclear. A spokesperson for Alaska Airlines, as reported by CNN, addressed the issue by saying that the decision on this matter is due to be released later this year. Regardless, however, the “company will fly a mixed fleet for the next six years.”
Although news of Virgin America acquiring more planes next year has been circulating, the brand will still see the end of its service two years from now. The company pays the British Virgin Group huge amount of license fees so that the Virgin America brand can use the name. And last summer, USA Today revealed that the airline has paid $22 million to the British company in the past three years.
CEO of Alaska Airlines, Brad Tilden, can be recalled saying, after news of the merger first broke out, that he was keeping the Virgin America brand. However, Alaska Airlines recently released a news update on its official website stating this is no longer the case.
“After careful consideration, the combined company will adopt Alaska’s name and logo, retiring the Virgin America name likely sometime in 2019.”
On the dissolution of Virgin America, the airline’s Vice-President of Marketing, Sangita Woerner, also stated that although it is a brand that is well-loved, Alaska Airlines decided to fly under a single brand name to thrive in the West Coast while continuously providing service with much efficiency and flights at a low cost. This move, according to Henry Hartveldt, an industry airline specialist, did not come as a shock considering the difference in market share and positioning of the two brands. And by sticking to one brand, Alaska airlines can focus and create flights that can equal other carriers. In fact, he sees Alaska as “very able to fight at or above its weight,” LA Times reports.
Passengers, on the other hand, can expect some improvements in their flying experience after Alaska Airlines implements the promised changes to its in-flight service.
“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.”
Also, other upgrades include showing of free movies, the addition of more premium seats in the aircraft, availability of satellite connectivity, and use of free chat as well as enhancement of the West Coast-inspired meals being offered onboard. Complimentary upgrades are also to be given and passengers can expect and enjoy the renovated lounges, as part of the company’s expansion project, in airports of Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland. New lounges are also underway in San Francisco and John F. Kennedy airport in New York.
However, despite all these upgrades and changes, the frequent flyer program of Virgin America will no longer be honored. Next year, Alaska Airlines’ mileage plan will be the only loyalty program in place for both airlines.
These two airliners may be very different in terms of branding and following, but its forged relationship has put the airline fifth on the list of largest operating airlines in the U.S. The Alaska Airlines and Virgin America merger have resulted in a growing fleet flying and transporting 40 million passengers in a year to 110 destinations not just within the U.S. but as well as to some countries in South America and Canada.
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