Virgin America, Richard Branson’s foray into the US airspace, brought some flair to the skies, with free in-flight entertainment, comfortable economy class seats, mood lighting and boarding music. When Alaska Airlines bought the Virgin America brand last year in a $2.6bn merger, it didn’t say whether or not the Virgin brand would remain, but now it has been reported by CNN, and confirmed in a letter by Branson, that Alaska will phase out the Virgin America name.
The merger resulted in 1,187 daily flights and 286 aircraft, making it the United States' fifth largest airline. Phasing out the name, however, won’t do away with the flight perks the Virgin planes have become known for, and Alaska says it will keep them when the two airlines become one brand, most likely in 2019.
Changes will be happening as the brands blend over the next year or so, including getting new cabins on its Boeing jets next year, expanding first class seating on Virgin Airbus jets, adding high-speed satellite Wi-Fi to Boeing jets, and making permanent free movies and TV episodes available to passenger devices and seat-back screens.
Virgin branding will be phased out, including staff uniforms, which will be designed by Luly Yang, according to CNN.
Late last year, agency Mekanism came out with a campaign and website, “Different Works,” advertising and describing the merger and the changes that would come, though it still does not make mention of phasing out the Virgin name.
Branson, however, wrote a long letter on the Virgin site (and tweeted it out later), saying goodbye to the Virgin America brand, looking back on the airline’s achievements with fondness and thanking fans.
“Many tears are shed today, this time over Alaska Airlines’ decision to buy and now retire Virgin America. It has a very different business model and sadly, it could not find a way to maintain its own brand and that of Virgin America…It was a long and hard journey but in the end you are the best consumer airline in America.”
One reason the Virgin America brand is being phased out is because Alaska didn’t want to continue to pay licensing fees on the Virgin brand.
"While the Virgin America name is beloved to many, we concluded that to be successful on the West Coast we had to do so under one name – for consistency and efficiency, and to allow us to continue to deliver low fares," said Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines' vice president of marketing, in a statement, according to the story on CNN.
To show their support of the Virgin America brand and applaud their efforts in the US, Virgin Atlantic just released a video on social from their crew members, which links to VirginFliesOn.com, which links to the Virgin Atlantic Facebook page.