Alaska Airlines takes key steps in merger with Virgin America

18 December, 2016, 04:39 | Author: Alejandro Stokes

Alaska Airlines closed its acquisition to buy Virgin America, the group announced on Wednesday.

"Alaska plans to continue to operate the Virgin America fleet with its current name and product for a period of time while it conducts extensive customer research to understand what fliers value the most", Alaska said.

The plan by parent company Alaska Air Group to acquire a rival received scrutiny from the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division because it eliminates a competitor on heavily traveled West Coast and transcontinental routes.

Starting January 9, 2017: Members of Virgin America's Elevate rewards program will transition to an Alaska Airlines reward program.

Members of both airlines' reward programs will be able to earn rewards for flights on either Alaska or Virgin America.

The merger of Alaska and Virgin would combine the nation's sixth- and ninth-largest airlines, respectively, to create the fifth-largest US carrier; it makes Alaska the biggest carrier on the West Coast. Less than a decade after its maiden flight in 2007, the airline has won top marks and awards (pdf) for flyer-friendly service, which includes white leather seats in first class, mood lighting throughout the cabin, an early adoption of in-seat entertainment and seat-to-seat messaging.

Together, the two carriers will control about 6% of the nation's domestic flights. Alaska has some of the highest marks for punctuality in the U.S., something that may be tricky to manage in an expanded network, particularly given that 80% of the USA market is controlled by only four airlines: American, Southwest, United Airlines and Delta.

Hubs Located on the West Coast: Both airlines will continue to have hubs primarily located on the west coast. Ben Minicucci, chief operating officer of Alaska Airlines, will also serve as CEO of Virgin America.

In terms of leadership for the new combined operation, it will be led by Alaska Air CEO Brad Tilden. In a sign that the two brands will fly side by side for at least the near future, the airlines unveiled a new tag line, "Different Works". On Dec. 21, Alaska plans to announce new daily flights from San Francisco to Santa Ana, Minneapolis and Orlando, Fla.

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