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?