It's been almost a year since Alaska Airlines bought Virgin America in an unexpected move that left most of us confused and apprehensive.
Generally, mergers are not good for consumers. There are rare instances where there's a sliver of time where the companies are integrating that we can find some arbitrage opportunities like right now in the Starwood and Marriott integration.
Alaska/Virgin announced some of their changes today for Virgin planes, and it's largely a mixed bag (all info via Virgin America's email to Elevate members):
50% more premium seating in First and "Premium" Class
Swapping out Virgin's First Class seats with Alaska's First Class
Complimentary First and Premium Class upgrades on Virgin coming late 2018
Fleetwide high-speed satellite Wifi
New and renovated lounges in SEA, PDX, LAX, SFO, JFK
Free movies and chat on your devices (August 2017)
Here are some pictures of the redesigned cabins (from Alaska's blog), which look very sleek and modern:
It is very tricky in situations like this where the company that's purchasing the other is the lesser-known mainstream name.
While Virgin's footprint is small and its elite program is very average, it has an intensely loyal fan base and a very well-known name. Most people outside of the Pacific Northwest have never flown Alaska Airlines and have almost never come into contact with it.
However, they do not want to continue to operate the Virgin name as Richard Branson gets a check every year for 0.07% of revenue (h/t Gary Leff) which sacrifices the more popular brand.
It also seems strange that they plan to operate a mixed fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to go down to a Boeing-only fleet for easier training.
It is clear that Alaska plans to become a major player in the New York market, and the biggest key to that (and what I am looking forward to most) is their transcontinental offering that will have to be impressive to compete with the rapidly rising JetBlue Mint Class and the improved American Airlines a321Transcon First Class product.
Do you fly Virgin? If so, will this affect your plans? Tweet me @MileageMayhem with your thoughts.