Alaska and Virgin America: Creating an airline people love

Imagine arriving at the airport and immediately feeling welcomed to a fresh, modern experience.

You know you’ll reach your destination on time with minimal hassle, and the airline you’ve chosen offers consistently low fares and more nonstop flights to more destinations from the West Coast than any other. At your gate, you can’t help Shazaming every song on the upbeat playlist, and the overhead announcements tell you what you need to know with a healthy dose of fun.

On the plane, you make your way to a comfortable leather seat in a mood-lit cabin. For the next three hours, you’ll enjoy fresh, West Coast-inspired food and drinks; Free Chat with friends and family on the ground via iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp; and all the free movies you have time to watch. Not to mention the personal power outlets throughout the cabin, so your devices arrive at your destination as ready for adventure as you are.

Your airline is unconventional, just like you are.

It’s 2019 and this is how we’re defining the future of Alaska Airlines. Every element from the most functional (the welcome message on the airport kiosk) to most expressive (the lights and music brightening the lobby) has been carefully curated with the idea of making each travel experience truly enjoyable.

After months of research and in-depth conversations with fliers, we’ve made the difficult decision to retire the Virgin America name and logo likely sometime in 2019. However, many of the elements you love about Virgin America will live on, paired with Alaska’s unbeatable performance and top-rated customer service. Our colleagues at Virgin America built something truly amazing over the past decade, and it’s our goal to honor what they achieved while taking it one step further.

After months of in-depth conversations with loyal Virgin America guests and long-time Alaska fans, we’re ready to take what we’ve learned and make it reality – with a twist.

New and expanded amenities:

Low fares and convenient flights to the places you want to go

Alaska and Virgin America have been actively growing their newly combined networks since officially merging in December 2016. Earlier this month, we announced 21 new markets with 25 new daily departures out of San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Jose, California – marking the largest addition of routes in company history.

Modern, warm and welcoming vibe

You’ll begin to see some of the new Alaska brand personality come to life throughout 2017, to create a warm and welcoming West Coast vibe throughout the guest journey. Music from fresh new artists will be featured on planes, in airport lobbies and at gates. In 2018, we’ll debut an entirely redesigned cabin with new seats and amenities, and we’ve already started to retrofit select Boeing aircraft with expressive blue mood lighting. Modern, stylish uniforms by fashion designer Luly Yang will roll out in mid-2019 for flight attendants, customer service agents, pilots, mechanics and ground crew.

Reliable, high-speed Internet

Many of the fliers surveyed shared that they’re frustrated with unreliable in-flight Wi-Fi. Alaska’s leaders heard them loud and clear, and beginning in fall 2018 will be retrofitting all Boeing passenger jets with high-speed satellite Wi-Fi (fast enough to watch movies or TV shows via your favorite streaming service!), with the remainder of the Airbus fleet to follow. Both fleets are planned to be fully satellite-equipped by the end of 2019.

More premium seats

Earlier this year, Alaska introduced a brand-new Premium Class seating section with 35 inches of pitch and complimentary beer, wine and cocktails. Beginning in the fourth quarter of 2018, the airline will add 18 new Premium Class seats to Airbus aircraft, as well as adding first class seats (going from eight seats to 12) customized for enhanced comfort: 41 inches of pitch, improved seatback storage pockets, cup holders, footrests and personal power outlets throughout the cabin.

More rewards

In 2018, Alaska Mileage Plan will become the sole loyalty program for both airlines, offering guests more rewards, an expansive global partner network and the only major airline loyalty program that still rewards a mile flown with a mile earned on Alaska and Virgin America flights. Members of Alaska Mileage Plan enjoy some of the most generous benefits in the industry including complimentary upgrades, award travel starting at 5,000 miles one-way (plus taxes and fees) and a faster path to elite status compared to other airlines. With Alaska and Alaska Global Partners, members can earn and redeem miles to more than 900 destinations worldwide.

Complimentary upgrades

With expanded premium seating options comes more opportunities for complimentary upgrades for elite loyalty program members. Alaska’s elite-level frequent fliers enjoy the industry’s most generous upgrade policy. Mileage Plan MVP Golds and above are upgraded to First Class or Premium Class 75 percent of the time (based on average historic system wide rates of upgrade) on Alaska Airlines flights. Complimentary upgrades on Airbus flights will debut for the first time ever in late 2018 – a brand-new perk for Virgin America elites.

Free movies

In January, we made our entire catalog of more than 200 direct-to-your-device premium in-flight movies and TV shows free. Starting now, free entertainment on guests’ own devices will be a permanent feature on our Boeing fleet and the same free library of movies and TV shows will expand to Airbus aircraft via Red entertainment system in August 2017. Guests on Airbus aircraft will continue to enjoy access to early release movies for purchase.

Free Chat

Also in January, Alaska debuted Free Chat onboard, allowing guests to stay connected to friends and family on the ground via Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and iMessage. In August 2017, we’ll introduce Free Chat to Airbus-operated flights.

West Coast-inspired food and beverage

Together with Virgin America, we’re continuing to enhance our fresh, healthy, West Coast-inspired onboard food and beverage menus. Guests of both airlines enjoy craft brews, premium wines and delicious food options. By June 2017, Alaska First Class passengers will be able to pre-select meals before they fly, and by early 2018, Alaska’s Main Cabin passengers will be able to pre-pay for their meals before they fly. Food pre-ordering will be extended to Airbus flights sometime in the future

Lounge expansion

By early 2019, guests will enjoy refreshed and expanded airport lounges in Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles. Alaska also plans to build brand-new lounges in San Francisco and at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Together, the expansion plans will double the square footage of our existing airport lounges. And don’t forget – Alaska Lounge members also enjoy access to more than 60 partner lounges throughout the United States and around the world.

What other elements or amenities would you love to see onboard in the future?

419 comments on "Alaska and Virgin America: Creating an airline people love"

  1. Alaska should keep Virgin America brand. It is much stronger and more favorable than Alaska’s. Hopefully Alaska can meet Virgin America’s higher standards(including maintenance). Might have to go back to United. ????

  2. I am a loyal Alaska flyer, but last year I took one Virgin flight and LOVED it. The on-demand ordering from your seat is a MUST. It made the experience feel much more first-class in coach. I am sad to not see this listed in the post above. PLEASE?!?!

  3. Question: As some of us travel with corporate laptops or devices (with standard profiles which do now allow for most installs), is there a way for our IT department to review the program required to install before we get on a flight?
    I would like to take advantage of your entertainment offers, but policies being what they are, I could see a conflict between this vision and what my tech department will allow for before they let a new program run on our systems.

  4. Sounds like Alaska Airlines is on the right track! Looking forward to the new changes.

  5. Wow ! I agree with Lee 3/22/17 Alaska Air is the best. We recently took a trip and used another airline and we found out right away the BIG DIFFERENCE in service and comfort. Thank you Alaska.

  6. So maybe now you can start flying from Medford to SFO so us long suffering (under the lack of competition to the Bay Area) southern Oregonians can connect to all the Virgin flights out of SFO.

  7. When it’s new, shiny and bright everyone is excited. How long before we, the customer, will “pay” one way or another for all this “new”? Alaska is a GREAT airline and I don’t use that term lightly. I don’t expect to be entertained when I fly. I expect professionalism, courtesy and reliability. Alaska delivers that and with an esprit de ccorp that feels both, no joke, traditional and contemporary. Times certainly change but not always for the better. How long before the “new” Alaska Airlines will no longer be shiny but just be one of the other tacky airlines putting image before grace?

  8. LIE-FLAt SEATS in first class on flights to/from East Coast over 5 hours.
    No one is offering that service out of Portland or Seattle yet, how about being the first and surpassing the competition rather than just catching up?

  9. The pockets in the seat back in front of the passenger is far too small to accommodate anything larger than a iPad or magazine. Water bottles, headphones or other items that are not a flat profile just do not fit. As a result there are odd items that have to be put in the seat with the passenger or held at the feet. Not sure of the thinking on this change in the last iteration of the interior change, but more space here would improve passenger convenience and possibly safety since articles that currently will not fit would be secured.

  10. That first class looks like a big let down from Virgin. I can get it on any other airline. It says ‘footrests’ but they’re not the full legrests Virgin had. At least JetBlue has a proper first class that’s different from the boring old airlines and is being launched on more and more routes.

    I suppose Alaska fliers will be happy though.

  11. Bring back the early morning flight from Vancouver to LAX so that flying to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo can happen without an overnight stopover.

  12. I’ve been flying Alaska for nearly 30 years now, there has rarely been another choice in airlines in my life but I can say when I have chosen others I miss Alaska. Watching Alaska evolve has been like seeing a neighborhood friend grow up and become well known for their trade (I would say famous but Alaska has more substance than “famous” implies). Please maintain the friendly, down-to-earth service of all crew. I’ve always appreciated the pilots and flight attendants’ humor, information, and warmth – not something I’ve seen as consistently when I’ve flown with American and Delta. Those qualities have always made traveling with Alaska reliably a better experience than flying with other airlines. Love the new blue lighting and plug-ins at every seat on the 800’s and 900’s. Bring back some of the little food packs that there used to be – the biscotti things are nice but seem like desserts. Small thing, I know, though that change would be nice.
    An area of the manage flight’s website where you could quickly and easily notify an agent if your arriving flight is late and cutting it close to your connecting flight would be nice – not something I’ve needed a lot, though when I have been in those situations it would make a huge difference in service and peace of mind while traveling.
    I’ve never flown Virgin, so as I’ve read other comments here I am imagining things that sound like positive changes that could be integrated from Virgin (some people mentioned leg room in specific cabin areas, for instance). However, I see one person calls Virgin’s cabins reminiscent of a nightclub – I am not looking for (and would be uncomfortable with) a cabin that brings to mind a nightclub when I board a metal object flying 400 mph in at 30,000 plus feet. For whatever reason in the past few years I’ve become scared of flying and am just getting over that now. A cabin atmosphere that would be flashy or hip (by that I mean bright flashy color decor like bright white and pink/red, pre-post flight music with pounding bass or rap/hip-hop) on a jet sounds conducive to anxiety rather than comfort for me.

  13. A step forward for AS but I still would like to see:

    * In-seat IFE for transcon flights (esp SFO/LAX-NYC).
    * Better F seats (personal light? better amenities like pillows/blankets, etc).
    * Red entertainment kept and expanded onto Boeing planes.

    I will always be a VX flyer at heart and hopefully the improvements will be drastic enough to stick with AS. Otherwise i’ll just fly UA/B6.

  14. Nice interior, but I would make sure that all the blue LED lighting was turned off after 9pm of the destination time zone, and replaced with low, warm lighting, This would greatly mitigate jet lag by allowing the passengers to release melatonin.

  15. It would be awesome if Alaska made significant improvements in the ability to redeem miles for premium cabin flights on partner airlines. It’s very frustrating to search and search, only to find that first or business is almost never available. Raise the redemption amounts if you need to, but today it’s virtually impossible to find premium cabin seats.

  16. One of the things that has frustrated my family for years is the lack of Vegan Meal choices on board the Alaska fights. When we fly first class, the flight attendants will offer to pull the animal flesh off of the salad portion of the first class meal for us, or they would bring one of the limited Mediterranean Tapas boxes to us from the coach section. Which, as a first class passenger, makes me feel like a second class citizen. We’d love it if Alaska would begin supplying fresh vegan meals for passengers. Everyone I’ve met (both vegan and non-vegan) are not opposed to eating a vegan meal, but no vegans want to eat a non-vegan meal. As long term Alaska Airline customers, we’d appreciate any changes you could make to increase the comfort of our trips!

    • 100% agree on vegan meals… would be awesome to have the option either ahead of time or one board.

  17. Congrats on the new vision. Sure wish you would add a daily PDX-Cancun route, one stop via OAK, SFO, or LAX, that gets into CUN early afternoon (not overnight). The times for your current Alaska connections through SEA are not at all competitive. Tourism from the U.S. to the Yucatan has been growing double digits every year, and the flights I take with your competitors are always totally filled.

  18. I’m a long time Alaska fan. The surcharge for checked luggage is just wrong, it has caused a never ending carry on luggage hassle. Don’t let Alaska turn into white trash airlines.

  19. The safety videos…I hope you continue something as fresh and innovative as Virgin has been and done! Truly a pioneer in the air industry. I fly Alaska all of the time, but that ambiance that Virgin has created…the best of both. If you, Alaska can grasp that also, then…bam, a stand out from all others.

  20. I sure hope the sea-tax to Tampa flight time gets changes back to 9:10 am with the new changes! What a huge disappointment to realize this flight has been pushed ahead coming this fall. I love flying Alaska but with this change I am no longer a fan:(. Sorry guys. What a bad decision that was!

  21. Wish you had a direct flight out of Palm Springs to San Jose as we are now living in Rancho Miragecsix months a year and plan to fly up north every month to see our grandkids.

  22. Drop down foot rests would be great for those of us that are leg length challenged. They have them on Air India, made my flight to New Delhi soooo much more comfortable. If I’m traveling for pleasure, I only have my purse for under the seat, and it’s not large enough to rest my feet on.

  23. Oh no, more premium seating means LESS affordable seats- and now that my beloved Virgin is bought out- less affordable flights. All the above mentioned mood lighting, contact on ground, pre ordering food etc- $$$- who cares? Nothing beats a direct, leg room comfortable, affordable flight coast to coast. Oh well.

  24. REAL cabin dividers please!

    The floating, visual cabin dividers look cheap, are cheap and promote brand cheapness.

    I realize the bean counters love the more efficient use of cabin real estate and the first row Y flyers like the underseat storage. However, not having a physical cabin divider lessens the privacy, calmness and premium feel of First Class.

    I fly paid First Class. I stopped flying DL when they introduced their new First Class product that includes these visual markers. I’ve encountered Y Class flyers in the first row of Y using the center console of the F seat pair in front of them as a foot rest; little kids in Y peering between the last row of F seats; and roaming Y Class flyers who think the whole aircraft is just like a WN plane!

    PLEASE use the VX-style cabin dividers in a color associated with the AS brand.

    The rest of the changes coming to AS flyers’ experience look good.

  25. Long time MVP looking forward to the updated lounges, food choices in first class and more flights added. Alaska has always been my first choice for flying, only complaint was the lack of imagination/choice in first class meals and offerings in the lounges. Sounds like Alaska listened and change is coming. ????????

  26. Great improvements, however very disappointed with earlier departure of morning flight from San Jose to Kona that prevents connecting from Reno. Please return to 7:30 am departure from San Jose.

  27. The new changes look great and its another reason why I’ve been a committed Alaska customer for years. I am however, saddened by the end of the relationship with Delta airlines. Delta has what I consider the best flights to the airports that I fly to in Europe. Plus their relationship and Alaska’s relationship with KLM made this seamless.

  28. Sounds great. Hopefully the waiting area in Portland gets a makeover. Needs it badly. Also hopefully this new security policy for certain international flights regarding laptops and tablets doesn’t become implemented for domestics. Would mess up all the WiFi applications that are really appreciated. Thanks.

  29. With some creativity you could keep both brands. I’ve flown Alaska many times; I’ve never flown Virgin America. But I like their name and their logo, especially the colors – their pink could not be more different than Alaska’s blue. Do yourself a favor and find a way to keep both brands; let them complement each other. You will reap benefits in terms of increased loyalty from VA customers.

  30. The positive changes you are making is the reason I have used Alaska Airlines nearly exclusively over the last several years. My only gripe is the dissolving of the relationship with Delta airlines. I use Delta for all my Europe flights and sometimes Asia because they fly directly to those areas from Seattle and Portland. I know there are other choices but Delta had the best options especially for Europe.

  31. Please, please – start flying more often and to more places from Atlanta. Currently you only fly Portland & Seattle – how about adding SFO and LAX?…. I know the “main” airline here in ATL does not want the good competition moving in, but fair is fair and the have a monopoly on flights in and out of ATL.

  32. More flights out of Oakland would be good. An early morning flight from Oakland to JFK would be great.

  33. Would be great if you could fine a way to keep on-demand food and beverage ordering that Virgin America currently offers. It’s a great feature. Since you are losing the setback screens, perhaps this is something that can be accomplished with an in-flight app?

  34. Is there a lounge at SNA and can first class passengers allowed to use the lounge?

  35. All the plans look positive. But just yesterday I was in first class from SRA to LAX and was notified that Cognac was no longer available. That was one of the little things that set Alaska above competitors like United. Please consider adding that choice back to the drink selection. It still shows as a choice in the Alaska magazine.

  36. Whatever. I want free food and CHEAP beer. Who the heck cares about craft beer? The badge “craft” is just another excuse to charge way to much. I’ll drink Oly, Hamms , and Coors if it’s cheap enough. I won’t pay 8 bucks to drink anything.

  37. MVP Gold’s got hosed out of full miles from codeshares last year, with Delta, American and others reducing to 50% and 25% the miles given. For business travelers who go outside the Alaskan footprint, this is a big deal. I am probably going to lose my status as MVP Gold this year, because I can’t get on Alaska metal enough on partner flights. Please consider awarding full miles from partners.

    Alaska needs a lounge option in Dulles, San Diego, Detroit, Houston George W Bush (I think they are building an American lounge there, so maybe..) .. In general for frequent Business travel, Alaskan is a poor substitute to American or Delta, unfortunately. It looks like from this marketing mail sent today that they will be further embracing the vacation / specialty flying space that Virgin made their own. That’s wonderful, but between the reduction in partner miles and the fact I cannot get on Alaska metal for 2/3 of my business travel worldwide, I probably will have to make the call to jump to the dark Delta side sometime soon. Unfortunate.

  38. Would love comfy seats and a oull down foot rest! What a diff. That would make. So glad to hear ablut cup holders too…thank you. Cant wait to fly to Maui next Jan.- we always take Alaskan.

  39. Sad to hear you are getting rid of the personal screens/tvs. Not everyone has personal devices they travel with, or wishes to use them if they do. (And given recent news about device restrictions on some international flights, there could come a time when we’re prohibited from using them anyway.) As a loyal Virgin member, I love their stellar customer service and the fact that I can order food/drink and watch tv with a click of a button–all without having to bring devices and chargers with me. As a lesser, but important side bar: I really love the Virgin safety video (which I know every word to and annoy friends by singing it when they mention they are flying Virgin); it’s a reflection of the airline’s fun and relaxed spirit and I hope this merger maintains that character.

  40. All great news. I’ve flown Alaska since 1980, only complaint is small lavatories and less than optimal bathroom maintenance. Could this be addressed also?

  41. Applauding Alaska’s efforts to re-establish the service level of years ago. Though even with all that, entering LA through hectic LAX is a deal-breaker; bring back non-stop flights to Long Beach (LGB). Until then, JetBlue is taking pretty good care of me.

  42. I couldn’t tell by the article, but please keep the movie/tv devices for customers who don’t have the ability to download streaming onto their own devices. I hate flying on on other airlines where that is the only option, and therefore I can’t watch anything.

  43. My only wish is that if I buy airfare for another traveler that I get the miles on my rewards program.

  44. Now , if you were to include Canadian ,Alaska Airlines Credit card holders in your
    FREE CHECKED BAG benefit .
    It is long overdue !