Different works: uniting two airlines to create one great flight experience
4 p.m., Dec. 14, 2016 update: Photos and b-roll of the Dec. 14 press conference in San Francisco are available for download at the bottom of this post.
Bacon on a donut. Electricity and guitars. Labradors and poodles. Men in Black’s Agent J and Agent K.
Throughout history there have been countless tales of unusual pairings coming together to accomplish something great. (Just search “buddy comedy.”)
Today Alaska Airlines and Virgin America officially joined forces and are now the latest odd couple that, as Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden said today, is on the verge of greatness.
While the two companies may seem very different on the surface, Tilden says there’s more in common than you’d think, and together they’ll keep challenging the status quo to make flying better for everyone.
Airline consolidation over the past decade has led to the big four airlines controlling more than 80 percent of the market, making it harder for smaller, lower fare airlines like Alaska and Virgin America to grow.
“We’re here to shake things up by joining forces with an airline that has been disrupting the industry since it started flying in 2007,” says Tilden.
Separately, the two companies are strong. They each consistently win awards for customer service and performance, and are known for their low fares, innovative approaches and caring employees. For the past couple years, Alaska and Virgin America have been ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Wall Street Journal’s annual airline scorecard.
Together, the sky’s the limit.
Today Alaska and Virgin America have an expanded route network with nearly 1,200 daily flights to 118 destinations across North America, Costa Rica and Cuba. Today Alaska also announced new flying from San Francisco to Minneapolis, Orlando and Orange County.
With a combined network taking West Coast customers to the top destinations they want to fly, and backed by an award-winning frequent flier program, Tilden says together Alaska and Virgin America are poised to do great things for customers. That means more choices and lower fares, more rewards, and more to love.
Beginning Dec. 19, Virgin America Elevate members and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members can earn rewards on either airline. On January 9, Elevate members will be invited to activate new accounts in Alaska’s award-winning Mileage Plan, giving them access to:
- Alaska’s network of global partners that, together with Alaska, serve more than 800 destinations around the world
- A faster path to elite status compared to other airlines
- A program that rewards a mile flown with a mile earned
- Mileage Plan status-matching for Elevate Silver and Gold members, which will unlock generous benefits like complimentary upgrades on Alaska flights
More to love
Today, the combined airlines offer customers a bigger network, more flights and more rewards.
“Like Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones’ characters in Men in Black, the personalities of Alaska and Virgin America are quite different,” says Alaska’s chief commercial officer Andrew Harrison. “But together we can achieve greatness and we’re confident that ‘different works.’”
In the eight months since Alaska and Virgin America agreed to merge, employees of both airlines have shared countless stories on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter about meeting and welcoming their future colleagues.
“I’ve spent the past seven months getting to know Virgin America and its employees,” says Ben Minicucci, Alaska’s chief operating officer and CEO of Virgin America. “I’ve seen firsthand the passion Virgin America teammates have for their jobs, their airline and their customers. It’s the same passion I see in our own employees at Alaska, and it’s what will help us accomplish our shared mission: creating an airline that people love.”
Both airlines are leaders in customer service. Alaska has received top marks for its customer satisfaction scores for nine years and counting, while Virgin America regularly receives top accolades in rankings of best domestic airlines. And according to Tilden, it’s only getting better from here.
“Our employees are the proof of what we suspected: that together we’re stronger than apart. Think about all those famous odd couples whose differences made them stronger – and allowed them to change the world,” says Tilden.