Bad news for travelers who love Virgin America: In a statement on Wednesday, Alaska Airlines announced that the Virgin name would be retired in 2019.
“While the Virgin America name is beloved to many,” explained Alaska Airline’s vice president of marketing, Sangita Woerner, “we concluded that to be successful on the West Coast, we had to do so under one name — for consistency and efficiency.”
When Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America for $2.6 billion in April of 2016, many passengers worried that Virgin’s famous sense of humor, on-board mood lighting, and snack trolleys stocked with local San Francisco treats would be dissolved.
But Alaska is promising to adopt many of the elements that enthusiasts loved about the top airline in the United States.
Alaska Air Group’s CEO, Brad Tilden, explained that goal has always been to create a “go-to airline for people on the West Coast,” with affordable fares, frequent and convenient flights, and excellent customer service.
In fact, many of the changes may be favorable, even to Virgin loyalists. Alaska Airlines is encouraging Virgin Elevate members to transfer miles to an Alaska Mileage Plan with generous incentives: a 1 to 1.3 transfer ratio when turning Elevate points to Alaska miles, 10,000 free Alaska miles or $100 airfare credit (valid through April 30, 2017), and reciprocal elite status.
Alaska Airlines’ announcement also mentioned new uniforms by Seattle-based designer Luly Yang in 2019, a redesigned cabin with blue mood lighting in 2018, and free in-flight entertainment as just a few of the perks travelers can expect from the reinvigorated airline.
According to SFGATE, Alaska also plans to operate daily flights to 42 destinations by the end of 2017—nearly doubling its market presence.
If you’re still bummed about the loss of Virgin America, you’re not alone. In a very heartfelt letter to his team and to his customers, Sir Richard Branson expressed his despair over Alaska’s decision to retire Virgin America.
"This was the ride and love of a lifetime," he wrote. "I feel very lucky to have been on it with all of you. I'm told some people at Virgin America are calling today "the day the music died". It is a sad (and some would say baffling) day. But I'd like to assure them that the music never dies."