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?

418 Comments on “Alaska and Virgin America: Creating an airline people love

  1. I fly Alaska to Honolulu regularly. In recent years, I have bought first class seats, being told I coud use the lounge. Only problem is….when I tried to find a lounge in Honolulu….there is no lounge. It is a major airport. When you fly first class, one expects a lounge in a major city, particularly when on longer flights.
    PS…..There is no wifi in the entire Honolulu airport….even at Starbucks. LOUNGE PLEASE IN HNL! You are already a top airline….JUST DO IT…..
    Thank You

  2. Virgin America has the best food I’ve ever had on a domestic US flight. The poached egg breakfasts in first class are phenomenal–please, please, please keep them! In fact, keep all of the Virgin food!

  3. I want to see the flight from YVR to Zihuatanejo, Mexico returned! Same day arrival not spending night in LA!!

  4. We love flying Alaska, but have noticed a huge change in the flight schedule between Seattle and Chicago since your merger with Virgin America. HELP! It should NOT take ALL day to get there!

  5. I LOVE Virgin Airlines so I’m a little worried about the change. I’ve flown Alaska once, and it was great as well. I hope that non stop routes from Chicago to LA will continue. We fly out there at least 4 times a year and the times and rates that Virgin offer are so nice.

  6. Hello Alaska Air team, terrific news on all your developments. Some real industry leading benefits. Aside from all the bells and whistles which I can’t wait to experience I want to say in my 32 years of frequent flying, to me what stands out the most is your “people” it’s from everyone at the checkin or the gate agent that calls me by my first name, and the friendly smile, or the helpful flight attendant that helps that passenger that needs a helping hand (and does not treat them like they have cooties! Like your competitors). You obviously have a culture that you’ve worked hard to create from the application process to what the customer experiences – keep up that focus, don’t loose sight of it, it’s the people that make the difference.

  7. We have flown Alaska (SAN to LIH) in first class six times in the past year due to family issues. I am delighted to see that Alaska is planning to offer pre-select meals as I MUST be gluten free and hope that a gluten free option will be included in the pre-select meal choices. The attendants have all been very accommodating in “making up” a gluten free meal of fruit and veggies because the fish or chicken was covered in a “suspect” (for us gluten free eaters) sauce. Very discouraging. Alaska is our airline of choice whenever possible and we are glad to see the improvements that are going along with the benefits of this merger!

  8. Be careful about deploying blue lighting on flights where passengers might want to sleep: “red-eyes”, long flights, etc. Blue lighting delays release of melatonin and can keep you awake. This has been a problem in cities that were early adopters of bluish LED street lighting, or that didn’t do adequate research regarding the effects of blue wavelengths. Affects not just people, but animals and birds, too.

  9. I like flying AK Air. Which is good since you’re the olny choice that I have out of YKM. My needs are few, and basic. Adequate leg room and good connections are about all that concern me. I have your VIsa card and use your alacarte and gate check service where available, so baggage is never a problem. You could do a better job of enforcing the carry-on size regulations. I applaud the lowering of reward travel points on some routes. However, I’ve noticed that it hasn’t yet caught up to smaller places, like mine. Sometimes it takes fewer points to fly fom YKM to California (via Seattle,) than to fly just YKM -SEA . While I’m pleased that the merger has added AK Air destinations, I really am disapointed that LONG BEACH, CA has been deleted. It is the most convenient to the Long Beach Cruise terminals. I am a fan of your club rooms and, while bigger ones would be nice, more, at more airorts, would be even better.

  10. Free gourmet Choc. Bars from Seattle confectioners on allAlaska Air flights.Nice touch and much appreciated.

  11. I fly Alaska Air, but you need bring back fights to and from Long Beach,Ca. Now I have to fly out of LAX or Burbank way out of my way very inconvenient.

  12. Monitors in back of the headrests for tv and movies. The digital players are never charged and you can’t use them until they are distributed.

  13. I would really like Alaska to fly nonstop to Mexico again. Mazatlan, Cabo and Ixtapa

    Love Alaska

  14. I wish airlines would give free full meals to economy class passengers as they did years ago. That’s the one thing I really care about – not electronics, music, mood lighting, what the flight attendants uniforms look like, etc. It’s a pain having to plan for and prepare food when you travel, along with everything else. Airport food is expensive and of mediocre quality.
    It would also be nice to have more room in economy class, but I suppose that’s a pipe dream these days.

  15. Will mood lighting change shades of blue throughout the flight depending on time of day

  16. how about free internet and movies for current 75ks?

  17. There are many of us that fly to Mazatlan Mexico yearly or more frequently. There used to be a non-stop flight that was so much easier to negotiate than going through LA , which is a disaster on the return flight. Last year there were only to assistants for about 10 w/c clients resulting in chaos. Why was the nonstop flight cancelled, it was always full to capacity?

    a

  18. I was pretty happy when I learned that Alaska had bought Virgin, my favorite carrier. I have flown to England many times on Virgin Atlantic and was really excited when Virgin America was launched. I always flew Virgin if they flew to where I was going. When I was flying on the west coast I would always try to get on Alaska. I recently flew to Denver and tried to get there non-stop but would have had to fly north to SFO and then transfer. Not so good. I am impressed with Alaska and fly with them whenever I can’t get on Virgin and go non-stop. Merge the two “best qualities” of the two businesses and you will have a real winner! Some of the larger “second rate” airlines-AA, USAir United had better watch out! P Nissler

  19. As a Gold flyer, I rely on the ability to change flights without penalty having purchased Virgin America flights with my Virgin America Visa card. Please consider retaining this very important perk.

    • How about doing a retro miles merger too? All previous Virgin flights now qualify as Alaska flights toward the various levels. And by adding to our frequent flyer level along with points accumulated would make me feel like a winner too as a result of the merger. But then I’d know that my loyalty “paid” off and would “payoff” for future deals too. I’m a loyal Alaska flyer along with my kids and extended family. However, our other favorite was Virgin; our kids loved the electronics provided by Virgin. Good merger Alaska!

    • As a VA Silver Elevate member, I also enjoy the benefits of the Virgin America Visa card. Please retain/ transfer those benefits.

  20. Bring back nonstop flights between Vancouver and Los Angeles! The ‘premier airline for the West Coast’ shouldn’t ignore the Vancouver/LA matrix. Those flights were always full, and as a bonus they acted as a conduit for Alaska’s Mexico flights as well, so travelers didn’t need to go through the hassles of US customs or of spending a night in LA in order to get to their Baja vacations.

    • I miss SFO-YVR also. I sometimes flew AA to LAX to connect to the evening LAX-YVR because I dislike AC and UA service.

  21. I’ve flown Alaska a TON for years, and on Virgin occasionally. I’m primarily flying North/South on the west coast. I love the way Alaska has executed for a very long time. It’s always been the small things, like the power outlets in the seat back in front of you instead of between your neighbors knees under the seat like other airlines do. Like the personal digital-players rather than seat-back video that allowed them to upgrade to higher def video when it was available. Like allowing me to use my own iPad instead to watch streaming video. All small things, but they add up. No one else out there (and I’ve flown them all) executes great, customer-focused business like Alaska. And the flight attendants do a far better job than any others at keeping the warm smile and helpful attitude going when the going gets tough.

    One thing I loved about Virgin was the ability to order food from the seat back rather than having the flight attendants hawking food from the carts in the isles. SO MUCH BETTER! Plus I can have the food I want when I’m ready for it rather than when the cart comes by. Please, Alaska, keep this system. I promise I’ll order food on it every time!

    Otherwise, I’m looking forward to seeing Alaska execute a merger better than the rest, and enjoying the benefits of “our” new and more extensive airline. Keep it up!

  22. Keep up the good work. I’m hoping the integration of Virgin gives us the best of both worlds. How about in-flight ordering on my own device (if you can do entertainment…surely you can do food and drink ordering)? That would be a best-of-both-worlds approach. And how about a return of flights to Toronto (YYZ)?

  23. I fly Virgin America regularly from SFO to DCA non-stop. Alaska doesn’t fly that route. I would be heartbroken to lose that route. Also I count on the extra leg-room that Virgin has. Please don’t create cramped seating! Thanks!

  24. We love flying on Alaska Airlines! I wish you just had more (even seasonal flights) from DFW to FCA. It would great to not have to connect through SEA or Portland. There are a lot of Texans who fly in and out DFW, Austin and San Antonio to FCA.

  25. Would REALLY Like to See Alaska Add Back Boise to there Flights going to Mazatlan. Right now There are NO Alaska Connections in Seattle or LAX that connect with Any Alaska Flights from Boise without having to stay overnight coming and going. We Always Flew Alaska but you have made that not a good choice for us any more

    • I agree with Kathleen, we have to fly American Airlines from Boise to Mazatlan.

  26. How about a non-stop to Pittsburgh? Big manufacturing and health care hub, and rapidly growing tech center. US Air’s three direct daily flights were generally full.

  27. PLEASE don’t play music at the gate! I can’t stand the Virgin “hip” music, my life doesn’t need a sound track. Virgin is great, a premium product, but they have no class with the music blaring all the time. The “Virgin hip” thing is quite passe now. Quiet is never underrated.

  28. Love Alaska airlines, but the seat back pockets are just too small! They barely hold my IPad. Please consider making them expand more.

    • Ditto this a thousand times. Love the comfort of the new seats, but you’ve got to expand the nets so more can be held. Books, headphone cases, water bottles, all are a major hassle to use now because you can’t put them in the nets. Thanks.

  29. More nonstop to and from Seattle and/or Portland and Austin!

  30. Please do not change a THING about the Elevate program. As a long time flier on both VX and AS, the Elevate program is second to none. I love that flights are based on points directly proportional to the fare cost — i.e a $ 200 flight is about 10k points, and a $100 flight is about 5k points. This is VASTLY superior to the horrid ” loyalty ” programs of AA and UA — please keep the Elevate program and mileage redemption just as it is now. I love earning on my Visa Credit Card — and then a cheap flight, such as to SFO-LAX, is only about 5 k points. When I fly in First Class , I am happy to spend $30 k points, or whatever the corresponding, proportional dollar cost is.
    This is UNIQUE to Virgin and a major reason for my loyalty.
    Thanks!
    George

  31. Frequent flyers seem to get a lot of additional perks. But what about occasional flyers… what is there for us? I have failed to see the advantage of getting any airline’s credit card because I do not fly to any one city or area frequently enough. And when I do fly, I don’t want to be locked in to one airline when there may be other flight times to the same city that I like better offered by another airline. I have zero interest in departing at 6 am just so that I can fly on a specific airline. And arriving in a foreign city late at night doesn’t work for me either. Nor do I care for a lengthly lay-over anywhere along the way. Call me fussy but that’s what works for me. And I have not found an airline that I love since flying abroad 40 years ago on a foreign airline. I like comfort, legroom, and no crying babies. And (very important) an entertainment system that actually works… perfectly… every time. Does anyone ever check those things on a routine basis???

    Anyway, I am probably too demanding as a customer for any airline. I just want to be comfortable and happy. Is that too much to ask for?

  32. I use to fly with Alaska for years, but for past 3 years I fly with competitor due to luggage check in fees, if Alaska changes their luggage restrictions and be like its competitor I am sure lots of people will fly with Alaska air, love to come back but I like to check in my luggage at no cost.

  33. Seat size in coach is critical (leg room). Increasing it might mean fewer seats on the plane but they would all be FULL because passengers would be SO MUCH more comfortable than on other carriers.
    Otherwise you’re doing great!

  34. I’ve not flown Virgin, I would appreciate more room in coach, especially leg room. I’m grateful Alaska flights aren’t longer. I usually upgrade for flights to Hawaii or Florida from Seattle. I can tolerate that. A bit more comfort in all seats would help. All these flights are always sold out and occasionally I am unable to upgrade. I hate to fly over three to four hours in coach. Too crowded, stuffy, and uncomfortable.

  35. Currently when booking an international partner award, Alaska BLOCKS using domestic connections on Virgin.
    Example: Seattle to LAX on Virgin and connecting to Sydney on Qantas will NOT get ticketed.
    Can someone PLEASE make this happen?
    There are plenty of Virgin flights with schedules that better accommodate connections or with better seat availability for the domestic leg on award tickets, but it’s blocked and none of the agents on the Alaska Partner Desk can say when this will be fixed?
    Alaska owns Virgin. Why should the awards being treated differently, as though Virgin is a “partner” carrier and really not part of Alaska.
    To steal a thought from Nike: JUST DO IT

  36. The proof will be in the comfort I experience in economy class with the seat arrangement.

      • I should’t be required to haul out some cumbersome device to avail my self of the entertainment system. Those that want to us an Ipad or Kindle or such can still do that

  37. I love the iPad clip idea. But hey, first of all–if you’re going for a fresh, modern, West-coast hip look,. you’ve GOTTA retire the Abominable Snowman logo. I’ve flown you to 25+ years and never understood that guy or what he represents. How are younger fliers ever going to know–or care? Why do they need to? You’re losing the battle of visual branding over some nostalgic and unnecessary tie-in to your past.

    • NO WAY! The INUIT logo is essential, and honors the roots of why Alaska Air is still one of the best airlines today! Our roots offer us a grounding that truly allow us to soar-something Alaska has done for over 75 years! I have flown Alaska since I was less than a week old, and almost half a century later, still consistently experience it as the best.

    • I am surprised to hear myself say this but I completely agree. Mind you I am still lamenting the disappearance of the tulip logo on United. But the guy on the tail should go. Virgin planes are (in all aspects) clean and crisp. Having each plane named shows personality. Alaska has a great product, good color scheme but the tail just doesn’t do it for me.

    • That logo is an Eskimo from Alaska. I’m sure the subtly of their name escapes you but the airline was started for servicing the state Alaska and the indigenous people are the Eskimo.

    • False. Haha. It’s an eskimo and it represents Alaska…. I think the blue around it adds a good touch -from younger flier who thinks it’s cool age 22

      • Yes! We Alaskans refer to the “other 49” as the “Lower 48/9” for a reason. It’s like finding out you have a $100 bill and throwing it away because you’ve never had one before. Go the the wilds of ALASKA and find out what that man represents. Instead of wondering what Alaska stands for, experience it. Californians usually have a limited view of what the rest of the world really stands for. I know; I lived there for over 25 years. It looked best in my rear-view mirror.

    • Dahhhh, ALASKA Airline. A classic, cool looking Native Alaskan. What do you want, palm trees? Love the iconic Alaska man. Time for the “younger” flyers to realize its ” not all about them!”

    • That logo isn’t going anywhere. Alaskan Airlines is paying tribute to the Inuit. The native americans who called alaska their home long before we were ever there. In my opinion it would be a huge mistake to get rid of that logo.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inuit

  38. Saw new lounges in some cities and improving in others. San Diego has become a big hub for Alaska. The old United Lounge is in the same terminal and EMPTY. How about adding a Boardroom in San Diego?

  39. More often than not the flight attendants with long hair don’t tie it it all back when serving food and drinks. Yesterday on flight 411 (BNA/SEA) in First Class would be a good example. They are really nice people but please keep your hair tied back and don’t dangle it over my food and drink.

  40. I would strongly encourage Alaska to adopt on demand drink and food ordering like virgin has currently.

    • As a Virgin Silver Elevate member, I support Liz’s recommendation. The combination of choice and on-demand is very satisfying. I strongly recommend maintaining an Alaska branded version of the Virgin Red system.

  41. I think everyone should only use the overhead bins directly above their own seats. I don’t understand why the flight attendants don’t watch for this and say something!

    • YES!!! A big pet peeve of mine!! Worse than that are the ones that take up two spaces in the overhead bin and then some have to ‘check’ their bag because they ran out of room! Ugh..

    • I second that, it makes so much more sense and you don’t get held up when unboarding the plane by other passengers having to fetch there bags that are not near them!

  42. Please, please improve the meal service in first class. The food served during flights between Mexico and the Northwest are in drastic need of improvement. Tough chicken breasts which cannot be sawed or tasteless carb pastas are too often the only meal choices. Please check with some other major US carriers for delicious ideas. Love everything else about Alaska Airlines! Thanks for listening to us.

    • Not readily apparent is the fact that the Airbus planes have a coach seat width .7″ wider than found in the Boeing planes in coach. A little more comfort which Boeing chooses not to match by maintaining the 727 cabin width.

      Al Black

  43. “We’ve got some safety tips, that you oughta know. And trust me, it’s something that you wanna hear. So honey zip your lips, and enjoy the show. Before we move into the stratosphere. Buckle your seatbelt, put it on tight, and don’t you undo latch until we turn on that light. Stow all your electrical devices just as fast as you can. And whatever you do, don’t make me ask you again.” AKA the Virgin Safety Video! Can you just blur out the Virgin logos? We LOVE this video, and sing every word on every flight. We will miss this, in a major way, if it goes away because of the merger.

    • I love and sing along with that video also! It gets me hyped for my flight. And, I’m 65, lol! I’m also going to miss the lovely lavender mood lighting; must have been the male vote to go blue!

    • I 100% agree with this. Please, let this song live on and replace it with Alaska Airlines!

    • Yes please! I sing (lip sing) along with every word too! The fun and hip video makes me watch and listen to the safety announcements. If not that one, create a new one that is just as fun and hip.

  44. Dear John;
    About the reclining seats…. The only reason I recline is because the straight back of some seats hurt my back (which then radiates to my neck). So… if the seats are more comfortable, then maybe people will not reclince (?)

    • The easy answer is what other airlines like Cathay Pacific do. The seat back does not recline but the seat slices forward and it feels like you are reclined. This way you only use up your own space.

  45. Since I don’t have elite status, premium seats are a disappointing development because it has made seats at the front of the plane inaccessible for me when traveling for work (federal regulations prohibit upgrades) and costlier when traveling for pleasure. I’ve always been happy with Alaska Airlines, but it’s apparent that a traveler who fits my profile was not considered when the premium seats scheme was dreamed up, and I’d venture to say that there are a lot more of “me” than the privileged elites who will benefit from this uneven playing field. I’ve had consistently good-to-great experiences with Alaska Airlines over the years, but now my travel experience will be degraded as I am, in effect, forced to the back of the plane.

    • I am hopeful that along with all the hard elements your are adding come friendly attendants. In the past they have been very crabby, and not very good at public relations communication. Remember, the flyer is paying for their services.
      Respectfully,
      Marilan Anderson

  46. Get rid of the flight attendants pitching the credit card. they talk and talk and talk. us biz travelers want LESS talk. less talk from the comedian pilot. less shilling of credit cards for 5 minutes. I love everything about Alaska except the horrible gogo wif and that credit card pitch. more silence!

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: