Virgin America loyalists have two years to find a travel-grief support group and a new favourite airline. Alaska Airlines, which bought Virgin America last year, announced this week that it plans to retire the brand name and logo by the end of 2019.
“After much learning and listening, the difficult decision has been made to retire the Virgin America name sometime in 2019,” read the announcement email that went out to customers. “We are grateful for your loyalty and passion and our Alaska promise to you is to infuse many of the great elements you love about Virgin America into the Alaska experience, bringing you a warm and welcoming airline with a West Coast vibe.”
Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Air Group, put a positive spin on the name change in a statement.
“Our goal from the very beginning of this merger was to become the go-to airline for people on the West Coast, with low fares, convenient flights, a premium product and genuine, caring service,” he said. “Three months in, we’ve dramatically grown our presence in California and are united behind a new purpose: Creating an airline people love.”
As expected, the news was a sadder experience for Richard Branson, the eccentric entrepreneur who founded Virgin Group (and is now a billionaire because of it).
“George Harrison once said, ‘All Things Must Pass.’ This was the ride and love of a lifetime. I feel very lucky to have been on it with all of you,” he wrote in a statement. “I’m told some people at Virgin America are calling today ‘the day the music died.’ It is a sad (and some would say baffling) day. But I’d like to assure them that the music never dies.”
Alaska Airlines has promised to retain some of the features that fans love about Virgin America, including its extensive in-flight entertainment options, stellar customer service, and yes, the mood lighting.
A host of changes are also reportedly on their way:
- Free movies and chat using popular messaging apps beginning in August 2017 on Virgin America planes
- Fleetwide high-speed satellite WiFi, allowing for streaming to your own device, on Virgin America planes by late 2019
- 50% more premium seating both in First and Premium Class on Virgin America planes starting late 2018
- Unlimited complimentary First and Premium Class upgrades for Elite members on Virgin America, coming late 2018
- New and renovated lounges in SEA, PDX, LAX, SFO and JFK, and access to more than 60 partner lounges around the world
The news has understandably caused Virgin America lovers around the world to go into mourning on Twitter.
— M.G. Siegler (@mgsiegler) March 23, 2017
Virgin America is dead. Long live Virgin America.