Alaska Airlines and Virgin America have shared their vision for the future of the combined carrier. As expected, the combined company will adopt the Alaska Airlines name and logo, with the Virgin America name likely to disappear in 2019. However, popular features associated with the Virgin America brand will remain.
In a release, Alaska Airlines stated: “The goal is to create a warm and welcoming West Coast-inspired vibe.”
Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Air Group, said: “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. Three months in, we’ve dramatically grown our presence in California and are united behind a new purpose: creating an airline people love.”
Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines’ Vice President of Marketing, commented: “We spent the last 10 months conducting extensive research and listening carefully to what fliers on the West Coast want most. 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.”
In-flight Wi-Fi, premium seats, enhanced F&B and new lounges
Over the next few years, Alaska, which closed the acquisition of Virgin America in December 2016, will introduce a variety of customer-focused enhancements. In Alaska Air Group’s own words, these include:
- A modern, warm and welcoming vibe – customers will start to see some of the new Alaska brand personality come to life throughout 2017, to create a warm and welcoming West Coast vibe throughout the guest journey. Music from fresh new artists will be featured on planes, in airport lobbies and at gates. In 2018, Alaska will debut an entirely redesigned cabin with new seats and amenities, and has already started to retrofit select Boeing aircraft with expressive blue mood lighting. Modern, stylish 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 – Alaska’s entire fleet of Boeing 737 passenger aircraft will be equipped with high-speed satellite Wi-Fi beginning in fall 2018, with the remainder of the Airbus fleet to follow. Both fleets are expected to be fully satellite-equipped by the end of 2019.
- More premium seats – Building on Alaska’s new First Class and Premium Class seating sections that debuted earlier this year, premium seating will be expanded across the Airbus fleet beginning in the fourth quarter of 2018. The number of First Class seats will increase by 50% (going from eight seats in the Airbus First Class cabin to 12) and are customised for enhanced comfort, featuring 41 inches of pitch, improved seatback storage pockets, cup holders, footrests and personal 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.
- The country’s top-ranked frequent flyer programme – In 2018, Alaska Mileage Plan will become the sole loyalty programme for both airlines, offering guests more rewards, an expansive global partner network and the only major airline loyalty programme that still rewards a mile flown with a mile earned on Alaska and Virgin America flights.
- Complimentary upgrades – With 50% more premium seats being introduced to the Airbus fleet, elite loyalty members will enjoy generous complimentary upgrades. Mileage Plan MVP Golds and above are upgraded to First Class or Premium Class 75% of the time (based on average historic system wide rates of upgrade) on Alaska Airlines flights. Complimentary upgrades on Airbus aircraft will debut in late 2018.
- Free movies – In January, Alaska launched a temporary promotion offering its entire catalogue of more than 200 movies and TV shows for free. Starting now, free entertainment on guests’ own devices will be a permanent feature on its Boeing fleet and the same free library of movies and TV shows will expand to Airbus aircraft via the Red entertainment system in August 2017. Guests on Airbus aircraft will continue to enjoy access to early release movies for purchase.
- Free Chat – In January 2017, Alaska became the first and only US airline to offer Free Chat onboard and will expand Free Chat to Airbus-operated flights in August 2017. Guests can stay connected to friends and family on the ground via Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and iMessage.
- West Coast-inspired food and beverage – Alaska and Virgin America continue to enhance their fresh, healthy, West Coast-inspired onboard food and beverage menus. 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, Alaska’s Main Cabin passengers will be able to pre-pay for their meals before they fly. Food pre-ordering will be extended to Airbus flights sometime in the future.
- Lounge expansion – By early 2019, guests 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 New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The expansion plans will double the square footage of Alaska’s airport lounges. Members also currently enjoy access to more than 60 partner lounges throughout the United States and around the world.