It’s been a few months since the initial announcement in April, and there were a few bumps on the road, but the merger between Alaska Airlines and Virgin America is finally closing. As of today, Virgin America is officially a part of Alaska Airlines Group.
Alaska Airlines and Virgin America Merger Officially Closes
The merger means Alaska Airlines is now the 5th largest airline in the US, and the “new” airline will be an even stronger player in the West Coast.
As far as culture goes, I think Virgin and Alaska are very different airlines, and the airlines acknowledge that. But they are hoping their differences will bring a synergistic effect, as evident in the merger video they posted, titled “Different Works.”
There has been a picture of a plane with a special livery featuring the text “More to Love,” which brought speculation that there might be some branding changes.
Alaska has posted a rendering of the livery on their merger website, #Twogether. However, Alaska has announced that this is a one-time, special livery to commemorate the occasion. They are not announcing any changes to the branding at this time.
Reciprocal Earning and Benefits Start December 19
It will take a while before the programs officially merge, but reciprocal earning and status recognition start on December 19, 2016, which I think is pretty impressive.
This means that starting next Monday, you will earn Virgin America Elevate points on Alaska flights, and Mileage Plan miles from Virgin America flights. Elite members from both airlines will also receive priority check-in and boarding when traveling on flights from both airlines.
Starting January 9, 2017, you can start redeeming Alaska Mileage Plan miles for Virgin America flights. On the same day, Virgin America Elevate members will be invited to create a Mileage Plan account. Alaska will also begin doing status matches at that time, but they have not announced how Elevate Silver and Gold will fit into the Mileage Plan tiers.
Finally, as of today, Gogo Wi-Fi monthly passes from either airline can be used on both airlines.
A few things will remain separate for the airlines at this time, however. Virgin America Loft and Alaska Lounge memberships will still be operated independently, so you won’t have access to the other airline’s lounges. Alaska’s 20-minute checked bag guarantee is also not expanding to Virgin America, and you won’t be able to use Travel Bank or flight credits to book the other airline’s flights just yet.
Alaska and Virgin America have drastically different cultures, and I am definitely interested to see how they can leverage each other’s advantages and appeal to create something new. As for frequent flyers, I think most will be happy about how quickly Alaska is rolling out reciprocity in terms of earning, benefits, and redemptions.
What do you think of the Alaska + Virgin America merger?