Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America closed last December, though for now the airlines are still operating separately. While both airlines were strong on the west coast prior to the merger, that’s where their similarities end — the airlines have different fleets, different onboard products, different frequent flyer programs, etc.
As you might expect, aligning the experience between the two airlines is a huge project. The Virgin America brand is expected to be retired in 2019. While Alaska plans on integrating some of Virgin America’s “hip” touches into the new airline, for the most part it’s going to be business as usual for Alaska — Virgin America Elevate is being retired, the combined airline won’t offer seatback entertainment, elite members will receive complimentary upgrades, Virgin America’s super spacious first class seats will be eliminated, etc.
Virgin America first class
One step towards aligning the two airlines is that eventually both airlines will use the Alaska “code” for their flights, and it looks like we now have more info of when that will be. As of April 25, 2018, Virgin America flight numbers will be discontinued. That means for flights as of that date, Virgin America flights will have Alaska flight numbers, and tickets will no longer be bookable through Virgin America’s website.
For example, here are flights between Los Angeles and New York on April 24:
Meanwhile here are flights between Los Angeles and New York on April 25:
There are a few potential implications here:
- Presently there are a lot of complications associated with the airlines using separate reservations systems (I experienced this recently when trying to upgrade on Virgin America as an Alaska elite member), and a lot of those issues should be solved when Virgin America flights have Alaska flight numbers and also use their reservations system
- For any Alaska Airlines and Virgin America partner airlines, the new flight numbers will potentially have implications; this means it should be possible to redeem British Airways Avios for travel on Virgin America flights as of April 25, since they’ll have Alaska flight numbers, for example
- Potentially this also means that it will be possible to upgrade on Virgin America flights using Alaska upgrade certificates, and maybe we’ll even see the introduction of complimentary upgrades; as of now I don’t see any “confirmable” upgrades available on flights operated by Virgin America, but the functionality is there
Virgin America economy class
So as much as many people are probably sad to see the Virgin America brand disappearing, this is great news in terms of a streamlined booking process between the two airlines, and is the next step towards the two airlines being fully integrated