Virgin America, or Why Airline Mergers Suck

Earlier this week, Alaska Airlines successfully bid to acquire Virgin America—every startup’s favorite upstart airline.

Though the airline struggled to turn a profit since it launched in 2007, it offered a compellingly different experience than the network carriers and other low-cost carriers. This was one of the first airlines to offer an in-seat food and beverage ordering system. On my maiden flight in 2010, I remember ordering a few cans of 21st Amendment IPA while watching some recent episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Virgin America was also distinct because of their purple mood lighting, the aromatically filled cabins, and their Euro-hip inflight safety video.

Now with Alaska Airlines acquiring the airline, those distinct features will apparently be gone. Earlier today, Virgin America dispatched a message to members of its Elevate loyalty program. It reassured them that nothing dramatic would change on Virgin America over the next several months, but that’s only because mergers such as these take a long time to clear regulatory hurdles and because, you know, mergers are hard.

Please know that you will not see any changes during the next several months – and potentially until the end of the year – until the merger receives regulatory and shareholder approval. Furthermore, there will likely be no significant changes to your flying experience for as many as 18 months or more while the two airlines merge into one. Until the transaction is officially approved – typically a process that can take upwards of six months – both airlines will continue to operate independently and there will be no changes to our flight schedules, the Virgin America product and guest experience, Elevate Status levels or your ability to earn and redeem points.

With that, we can say goodbye to another friendly flier. From this press release, it’s not hard to see Virgin America morphing into Alaska Airlines, much like United Airlines morphed into Continental Airlines after their 2009 merger. And I probably won’t be happy with the result.

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  1. Alaska doesn’t care that they are destroying something special! They want the option for special gone so the customer has to again settle for mediocre. I flew Alaska yesterday:( boring endless Navy Blue blandness! You will be missed Virgin!!