The special More to Love livery at SFO - Photo: Alaska Airlines

The special More to Love livery at SFO – Photo: Alaska Airlines

We are a go! The merger between Alaska Airlines and Virgin America is official. To help celebrate, and welcome new members to the family, Alaska created a special “More to Love” livery on one of their Boeing 737-900ERs. What better way to bring two airlines together?

The painted engine on the special liveried 737 - Photo: Alaska Airlines

The painted engine on the special liveried 737 – Photo: Alaska Airlines

It is not a big surprise that the merger finalized, but the journey wasn’t exactly easy. Although many questions still remain, when things are said and done, the new combined airline will have about 1,200 daily departures to 118 destinations, with hubs in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Anchorage, Alaska, and Portland, Oregon. They will also have a fleet of about 286 aircraft — the future of the Airbus fleet has not yet been finalized.

Combined route map - Image: Alaska Airlines

The rumors of Alaska merging or being bought out have been going on since I can remember. Because Alaska is my hometown airline, it has a special place in my AvGeek heart. I am happy that this move better positions them to survive for the long-term.  However, it is hard because I also love Virgin America.

When Virgin America first started operations in 2007, they were no question my favorite airline to fly. However, time went on and other airlines caught up. Even though they still offer a competitive product, it doesn’t have the excitement that it once did and the purple lighting only goes so far.

Although Alaska doesn’t fully know what it will do with the Virgin America brand, my guess is it won’t be around for the long-haul. That might make good business sense, but it will be a loss for the airline industry.

Will Alaska become more hip? - Photo: Alaska

Will Alaska become more hip? – Photo: Alaska

Although Alaska has stated it wants to integrate Virgin’s culture into their own, they are pretty different. “Their brand is more edgy. Sometimes people think of us as conservative and stiff,” something Andrew Harrison, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer said during an interview with Brett Snyder on CrankyFlier.com. Maybe Virgin America will help Alaska become one of the cool kids. But is that something that passengers want?

Many questions still remain with this merger. It will be interesting to not only see how the cultures will combine, but also the fleets, products, customers, and routes.

I understand the excitement, fear, and sadness that many have about any airline merger. There are almost 3,000 employees at Virgin America who might have a bit more fear about what’s next. But as we all know, the airline world is forever changing and airlines come and go. Some with smiles, others with tears. Many with both. I hope this one works out best for everyone and I look forward to hearing more about the details of this merger.

What do you think of this merger? Good deal? Bad idea?

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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: david@airlinereporter.com

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11 Comments

I remember when Alaska 1st started flying SFO-SEA. They gave away little Credit Suisse Gold Bars. Still got.

JL Johnson

Amazing of them to embrace the trolls (me included) who have said that the airlines are too different. Excellent marketing. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of this.

You know…if Alaska actually got “cool” I would consider dumping Delta for them. I never had a problem flying their codeshares under DL (and NW too I think). But I felt like it was more like a Buick at the time. Something my parents would like. Not me. But now, I look at some of the new Buick’s and Virgin may help Alaska to become the new Buick. Honestly if Alaska wants to diversify themselves, sliding out from the “Alaska” name (don’t hate on me for it) may not be bad or mixing it in…Alaska America perhaps? So yeah if they became the cool kid and didn’t reach for my wallet each time they introduced an “enhancement” to their FF program (I’m waiting DL’s annual “enhancement” newsletter still) then I really would consider jumping ship.

**Ooops sorry forgot to add in my comment. After all look at the new Buick’s in the last few years. I see people half the age of 60 choosing them now because they are cool!

This will be a way to truly compete on trans-continental routes. What Alaska needs to do is up its premium product to rival Jet Blue’s MINT suites, United P.S., and America’s A321T. Adding a little modern flair to the venerable Eskimo would also be good. Will be interesting to see what this means for future mainline or international partners and mileage plan affiliates.

Personally I Hate the new paint job.
Pandering to Virgin, whole front of the plane red/fuschia/purple and fading/diluting the iconic Eskimo tail.
Sorry, not feeling it.

Hey D,

This design is just a special livery and is not the new livery of the airline. They just recently came out with a new look and will be sticking to that (at least for now).

David

I have to agree with you David, there are many questions that remain to be answered with this merger. I’m an Alaska fan through and through, so I’m a bit biased. I’ve never set foot on a Virgin America flight, so in all reality, I can’t speak to the culture Virgin brings to the table other than what is posted in the blogosphere and news stories. It would appear that Virgin has much to offer Alaska, and vice versa. I will continue to watch from afar with great anticipation of what new practices come out of this new marriage.

If I may, I’d like to offer my thoughts on the long term picture of Alaska and Virgin…

When I look at the bigger picture from the Alaska vantage point, I see one thing: the JFK pilot domicile. Looking at the 737MAX range map, I can’t stop seeing Alaska setting up to fly across the pond. Alaska has done well with vacation travel, and traditionally seeks out partnerships that enhance their existing route structure for their customer base. This would be a logical step for Alaska, but a risky one at that. It would be a dream, but one I believe to be feasible.

Thoughts?

Hey Andrew,

I haven’t heard anything about the flights across the pond — it would be interesting, but I think Alaska still has quite a bit of fighting to do in the US to stay strong. I would imagine we will see more international growth with the airline, but probably more south before east!

David

As much as people seem to love VX, it’s worth remembering that they have only recently become profitable thanks to low fuel prices. All those bells and whistles, mood lights and Entertainment 720-esque safety announcements, while people seem to like them, never made VX a stalwart but rather a niche. If all those features were really what the flying public wanted at large, you’d be seeing the AAs and DLs of the world lining up to implement them on their own planes now that they have the…ahem…disposable income to do so. VX was an experiment that decided it was better off cashing out while the chips were high than trying to stick it out and follow Branson’s original vision. I’m just glad AS won the big instead of B6.

Grover,
From what I’ve noticed, the “AA’s and DL’s of the world” ARE indeed implementing VX type cabins on their planes. It takes much, much longer for the larger airlines to retrofit their entire fleet of 800+ aircraft in order to have a consistent product like how you see on VX’s small fleet of 63 aircraft. But most airlines are following VX’s innovative cabin design. Have you not seen Delta’s new cabin interiors? It’s definitely in the style of VX. Here’s a look:
http://apex.aero/2015/08/04/delta-airbus-revamp
American is doing it as well… http://aadvantagegeek.boardingarea.com/2013/01/31/american-airlines-777-300er-inaugural-flight-first-class-photos/

Actually, a lot of airlines are adding the bells and whistles (mood lighting, and IFE).
http://www.airlinetrends.com/tag/mood-lighting/
In my opinon, it seems that all of the AA’s and DL’s of the world ARE lining up to implement them/mimic VX. Boeing now has the sky interior. Airbus, particularly the A350 and A330neo, now come with the option of installed LED mood lighting. And Finnair, Icelandair, Qatar, etc. all have similar new interiors like the ones mentioned above.

I’m not quite sure what you meant by “720-esque safety announcements”. But being a former flight attendant for VX, I can tell you that we are actually trained not to give lengthy announcements of any kind. Just like during flight, you’ll never hear VX pilots interrupting the cabin with any announcements. If you’re talking about the length of the safety video, take a look at Delta, American, United, Air France, and Air New Zealand, just to name a few.

VX was innovative, stylish, and trendsetting. It brought back the excitement of flying. It made flying fun again. I just hope that this merger is not a complete takeover, scrapping everything that is VX and not incorporating any of it into the new Alaska. IMO, that would be extremely disadvantageous.

P.S. Please don’t read this as if I’m attacking or trying to evoke a fight with you. That is not the case what so ever. I’m just giving my opinon and what I know from working for VX for many years.

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