Virgin America Name to Cease to Exist in 2019
A fter what is being called “careful consideration,” the Virgin America name will likely cease to exist as a brand sometime in the year 2019 — exactly when has not yet been determined — as part of the continued integration with Alaska Airlines, which announced the acquisition of the airline almost one year ago and was approved by the Department of Justice of the United States on Tuesday, December 6, 2016.
Virgin America Name to Cease to Exist in 2019
Although the two airlines will adopt the name and logo of Alaska Airlines — whose refreshed branding was unveiled back in January of 2016 — the combined airline will adopt many of the brand elements of Virgin America. According to this official press release, those elements include — but are not limited to — “enhanced in-flight entertainment, mood lighting, music and the relentless desire to make flying a different experience for guests” with the goal “to create a warm and welcoming West Coast-inspired vibe.”
Expected Future Enhancements
Alaska Airlines — which has itself been growing recently — will spend the next few years implementing major enhancements to the experience of its customers, which include:
- Modern, Warm and Welcoming Vibe — Music from fresh new artists will be featured aboard airplanes, in airport lobbies and at gates. In 2018, an entirely redesigned cabin will debut with new seats and amenities; and Alaska Airlines has already started to retrofit select Boeing aircraft with expressive blue mood lighting. New uniforms by fashion designer Luly Yang will roll out in mid-2019 for flight attendants, customer service agents, pilots, mechanics and ground crew.
- Satellite Connectivity — Starting in Fall of 2018, the entire fleet of Boeing 737 passenger airplanes will be equipped with high-speed satellite Wi-Fi; with the remainder of the Airbus fleet of airplanes to follow. Both fleets are expected to be completely equipped with high-speed satellite Wi-Fi by the end of 2019.
- More Premium Seats — Premium seating will be expanded across the Airbus fleet of airplanes beginning in the fourth quarter of 2018. The number of seats in the first class cabin will increase by 50 percent — from eight seats in the first class cabins aboard Airbus airplanes to twelve — and are customized for enhanced comfort, featuring 41 inches of pitch, improved seatback storage pockets, cup holders, footrests and personal electrical power outlets throughout the cabin. The redesigned Airbus cabins will also feature 18 new premium class seats with 35 inches of pitch and complimentary beer, wine and cocktails.
- Frequent Flier Loyalty Program — Alaska Mileage Plan will become the sole loyalty program for both airlines sometime in 2018 as the only major airline loyalty program which still rewards a mile flown with a mile earned. There are no plans at this time for Mileage Plan to be based on revenue instead of distance flown. In fact, some of the recent changes to the Mileage Plan frequent flier loyalty program are considered improvements.
- Complimentary Upgrades — More of the aforementioned premium seats means what promises to be the most generous complimentary upgrades in the industry. Complimentary upgrades on Airbus aircraft are expected to debut for the first time in late 2018.
- Free Movies — Alaska launched a temporary promotion offering its entire catalog of more than 200 movies and television shows for free back in January of this year. Effective immediately, free entertainment on portable electronic devices owned by passengers will be a permanent feature on its Boeing fleet; and the same free library of movies and television shows will expand to Airbus aircraft via Red entertainment system sometime in August of 2017. Passengers aboard Airbus aircraft will continue to enjoy access to early release movies for purchase.
- Free Chat — In January 2017, Alaska became the first and only airline in the United States to offer Free Chat onboard and will expand Free Chat to Airbus-operated flights in August 2017.
- Food and Beverages — Alaska Airlines and Virgin America continue to enhance their West Coast-inspired food and beverage menus offered aboard airplanes. Guests of both airlines enjoy craft brews, premium wines and delicious food options. By June 2017, Alaska First Class passengers will be able to pre-select meals before they fly, and by early 2018, Main Cabin passengers of Alaska Airlines will be able to pre-pay for meals prior to flights. Food pre-ordering will be extended to Airbus flights sometime in the future.
- Lounge Expansion — By early 2019, customers will be able to relax in refreshed and expanded airport lounges in Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles; as well as new lounges in San Francisco and at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The expansion plans will double the square footage of Alaska’s airport lounges.
Alaska Airlines is attempting to solidify its status as the premier airline of the West Coast; and all of the changes sound good — but I cannot help but wonder what are the negative aspects of these “enhancements”…
…perhaps more stealth devaluations are in store — such as this significant one regarding premium class awards with Emirates Airline which was implemented with no announcement; or the apparent removal of premium economy awards for flights operated by Japan Airlines as according to this article written by Matthew Klint of Live and Let’s Fly?
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.