MIAMI — Alaska Airlines and Virgin America received a single operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recognizing both carriers as one airline.
Alaska and Virgin America will move to a single reservations system in late April 2018. Meanwhile, customers will still use the respective airline’s mobile apps, websites, and airport terminals when traveling.
However, on January 1st, the Virgin America loyalty program integrated with Alaska Mileage Plan, and the company transitioned to a single payroll and benefits program.
— Virgin America (@VirginAmerica) March 29, 2017
“This is a big moment for our company. We’re now recognized as one airline in the eyes of the FAA,” said Ben Minicucci, Alaska Airlines’ president and chief operating officer and CEO of Virgin America. “I want to congratulate and thank the teams at Alaska and Virgin America for their tireless work to get this done on time, including Gary Beck, the executive sponsor who led this project from the beginning. The CAVOK Group was also instrumental with this massive effort. And we greatly appreciate the assistance of the FAA, the Department of Transportation and other agencies as we accomplished this major milestone.”
Alaska closed the purchase of Virgin America in December 2016. Since then, plenty of work and planning has been done to align the operating policies and procedures of the two carriers, which is part of the regulatory requirements established by the FAA to achieve a single operating certificate.
Through that work, Alaska added 44 routes across its network, in addition to the 38 destinations that were included with the acquisition of Virgin America. Alaska now has a diverse network and offers nonstop service to 42 destinations from the Bay Area alone.
These are some of the actions both carriers will take to continue with the integration progress:
- High-speed, satellite Wi-Fi for Alaska’s entire fleet of Boeing and Airbus aircraft beginning this spring.
- Upgrades to onboard menus, with more options in First Class; West Coast-inspired beer and wine choices; and new, fresh meal selections in the Main Cabin.
- Blue mood lighting will appear on more aircraft.
- Flight and ground crews begin wear-testing new uniforms designed by Seattle’s own Luly Yang, with a roll-out across the company in 2019.
- In January, the first Airbus plane gets painted with Alaska’s colors.
- Updated and expanded airport lounges are in the works, with New York’s JFK lounge opening in April, and the new 15,000 square-foot flagship lounge at Seattle opening next year.
On December 2016 Alaska Air Group announced it closed the purchase of Virgin America at $2.6 billion, with additional expenses bringing the cost to approximately $4 billion.
The definitive merger agreement was signed in April 2016 and approved by Virgin America shareholders in July 2016, creating the fifth largest airline in the United States.
Alaska Airlines flies 40 million customers a year to more than 115 destinations with an average of 1,200 daily flights across the United States and Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica and Cuba.
Likewise, Virgin America was an American airline founded in 2004 and began operations in 2007. It made its final flight on January 11, 2018.