PHOTO: An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-700. (Photo via Flickr/BrlYYZ)
UPDATE: 4:30 p.m. ET 3/23/17
Virgin mastermind and billionaire Richard Branson released a heartfelt farewell message Thursday regarding Alaska Airlines’ decision to retire the Virgin America brand name in 2019. Branson wrote, in part:
“With a lot of things in life, there is a point where we have to let go and appreciate the fact that we had this ride at all. Many years ago, I shed tears over selling my beloved Virgin Records for $1 billion, which we needed to fight off British Airways’ Dirty Tricks campaign to try to put Virgin Atlantic out of business. Many tears are shed today, this time over Alaska Airlines’ decision to buy and now retire Virgin America.”
“It has a very different business model and sadly, it could not find a way to maintain its own brand and that of Virgin America.”
“When a company goes public, decisions are made that benefit the shareholders. In the best of times, they also benefit consumers. It remains to be seen what will happen now – for travelers – with fewer airlines in the US than ever. Being different and on a mission to truly reinvent an experience for the customer is increasingly rare in this business.”
For the full statement from Branson, check out the official Virgin website.
Officials from the Alaska Air Group announced Wednesday that the airline plans to retire the Virgin America brand name “sometime in 2019,” the company said in a statement. (Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America for $4 billion in 2016.)
While the combined airline will carry Alaska's name and logo, it will adopt many of the brand elements that Virgin America enthusiasts love about the airline.
Some of the amenities sticking around on Alaska Airlines flights: Enhanced in-flight entertainment, mood lighting, boarding music and the desire to create a warm and welcoming West Coast-inspired vibe.
Since acquiring Virgin America, Alaska has been actively growing the airlines' networks by announcing 21 new markets with 25 new daily departures out of San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Jose, California.
“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,” Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden said in a statement. “Three months in, we've dramatically grown our presence in California and are united behind a new purpose: Creating an airline people love.”
READ MORE: “Alaska Airlines Plans to Hire 2,300 People This Year”
In addition to the adopted amenities, the combined airline will make major enhancements to its guest experience. Some of the changes include redesigned cabins with new seats, new uniforms for attendants, high-speed satellite Wi-Fi, expanded premium seating, an improved frequent flier program, complimentary upgrades, free movies, west coast-inspired food and beverage, lounge expansion and more.
Alaska Airlines, Virgin America and their regional partners currently carry 40 million customers a year to 118 destinations with an average of 1,200 daily flights across the United States. The airlines also serve international destinations including Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica and Cuba.
For more information on the continued upgrades and changes between Alaska Air and Virgin America, check out the official website of the combined airline.