The Odd Reason An Alaska 737 Has Been Out Of Service For Weeks

Filed Under: Alaska, Virgin America

Alaska’s $2.6 billion takeover of Virgin America was first announced in April, with the goal of closing the deal this year. As time progressed, a target date of October 17, 2016, was set for the deal to close. Unfortunately that deadline wasn’t met, though Alaska’s management continues to insist that they’re making “good progress” towards the deal closing.


We learned that the reason for the delay was that the Department of Justice was worried that there wasn’t enough competition left between US carriers (JoJo’s song “Too Little Too Late” comes to mind), and that they wanted Alaska to make some concessions. Specifically, it seems that the DOJ wants Alaska to cut their codesharing ties with American and/or Delta.

Arguably Alaska already significantly overpaid in this deal, and them having to cut ties with American and/or Delta could make this takeover even more costly. Alaska’s management continues to insist that the deal isn’t at risk, though I have to imagine that Alaska is even less happy about this deal than they were before.

Anyway, a picture has leaked of a “secret” Alaska 737-900, with tail number N493AS, sitting in a hangar at SeaTac Airport. This plane is sporting a special Alaska & Virgin America livery, with “More To Love” written along the side of the plane.

I wonder whether the interior matches the exterior, with half of the plane having nice first class seats, mood lighting, and personal televisions, and the other half of the plane looking like a Greyhound bus, just to be authentic. 😉

Apparently Alaska had the plane ready to go for the day the deal was expected to close, so that they could immediately have it in service to celebrate the two companies becoming one. Well, now it has been sitting in the hangar for three weeks and counting. That can’t be cheap for a brand new 737-900…

The more days that pass since Alaska’s target close date, the more skeptical I am that this deal will actually go through…

What do you make of the special Alaska & Virgin America livery?

  1. I’ve never quite understood this merger, other than Alaska wanting to cut competition on the West Coast. The Jet Blue/VA merger makes a lot more sense. I’m still hoping this all falls through and then Jet Blue can come in.

  2. “half of the plane looking like a Greyhound bus”…that’s an insult to Greyhound buses which can be quite nice these days

  3. Ben – do you know why there’s a Continental plane sitting at JFK? i saw it back in July when my plane (JL) was taxiing

  4. I really don’t understand the opposition to this plan. Alaska has expanded their network to a multitude of transcontinental destinations over the past couple of years and eventually they are going to run out of options for growth out of Seattle and Portland. There can only be so many Omaha and Wichita options. The relative remoteness of Seattle/Portland/Alaska leaves much to be desired for the future.

    So purchase Virgin America and get access to valuable gate space at the two largest airports on the West Coast, expand your network in the country’s largest state and grow your customer base. Yes there are costly expenses related to the merger, but for Alaska’s future they need a way to grow beyond the Northwest and this seems like a very reasonable option.

  5. The paint job is great. Wonder if the New Alaska Airlines will have a new logo? Seems the trend is the majors refresh logos after big mergers….

  6. @ Donna I really hope so. I have to say I don’t like AS’s current branding all that much and I think changing the credit card design was a terrible idea–the old Northern Lights one was probably the most attractive looking airline CC out there.

    If the deal actually goes through, I see AS having to make some serious compromises to keep VX loyalists happy.

  7. Random (and possibly incoherent) thoughts…..

    @Rob —> I have NO DOUBT that AS will *have* to make “some serious compromises to keep [us] VX loyalists happy.” Speaking just for me and my family, we live in Berkeley, CA; OAK is a very easy airport to get in and out of, yet we (almost) always fly VX out of SFO. It’s a much nice experience than I’ve had on any other domestic airline. That said, if AS ***** it up, there’s always Southwest . . . My daughter already prefers flying on Southwest over VX or AS, and she’s attending college in Tacoma (I think it’s the two free bags). But as of now, I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that AS will not screw it up. All of the employees of VX, be it at the ticket counter, the gate staff, or the flight crew, have all responded quite positively about how they’ve been treated by AS so far. That is the only thing about this entire deal that has given me any hope — that the VS employees seem happy with it — but I’m still nervous about it.

    @David –> Yes, I too certainly thought a merger with JetBlue would have made much more sense, originally. And for all the obvious reasons. And who knows what will happen if DOJ continues to hold up the merger? Maybe it falls apart simply due to delay? But if so, will JetBlue pick it up? Who knows? The thought of a merger of all three would create a *very* interesting company, but I’m not sure if B6 has the financial power to take on both AS and VX. I doubt it, however, and with AS over-paying for VX (plus the cost of delays), I don’t think AS would be willing to take over yet another airline.

    @sanseaguy –> Again, I would agree. It *is* one of the only ways for AS to expand, and tapping into the most populous state couldn’t hurt. So while I *do* think AS overpaid, I also think there is a fair chance of them making this work. But not if these bureaucratic (and unnecessary) delays continue . . .

  8. Alaska will get it right. Alaska is a great airline – their customer service trounces any in the industry. I have to defend Alaska otherwise here. I don’t understand Lucky’s greyhound bus reference (more than once). Horizon air has quite spartan planes for their short flights (PDX to SEA for example). However Alaska planes are great. They were the first I encountered with outlets (prior to Delta) etc. Great company. Great people. Always a pleasure to fly. Always appreciated as a customer.

  9. Im sitting in front of it now and yeah thats our plane although the engines have been repainted but that’s it all right it’s crazy how things like this leaked on the internet I’m just glad it wasn’t one of my pictures

  10. I have an interesting tidbit on this aircraft. This picture was taken at Victorville CA, NOT SEATAC as reported.

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