Wednesday morning, customers arriving at 29 airports in the U.S. and Mexico found something missing: all check-in counters, kiosks, signs and gate areas branded as Virgin America.
These 29 airports are where Virgin America and Alaska Airlines were both still operating flights, but on Tuesday night, two years after Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America for $2.6 billion, the final Virgin-branded revenue flights took off.
The final flights were Virgin America Flight 1182, which departed San Francisco at 9:30 p.m. and, two minutes later, Virgin America Flight 1948, which took off for Los Angeles at 9:32 p.m.
“We’re planning to delight our guests flying on these last two flights with a few surprises,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement before the flights.
Aviation geeks and frequent fliers with both Virgin America and Alaska Airlines who have booked seats on the Virgin America flight between SFO and LAX planned a few celebratory events and surprises of their own.
“We’ll be having a get-together in the gate area before the flight,” said Nate Vallier, a frequent flier who owns an airline IT company. “We’ll have posters, memorabilia and other swag to hand out and, after the flight, we’ll be gathering in the Alaska Airlines lounge in LAX to toast to the sunset of the Virgin America brand.”
Caroline Gale, a frequent flier who will also be on the flight, shared a video of some Virgin America fans practicing a special in-seat dance they planned to perform during Virgin’s perky in-flight safety video on the final flight.
Although he was the first member of the public to buy a revenue Virgin America ticket when the site launched, Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and president of the Atmosphere Research Group, won’t be on the final flight.
However, he says there are plenty of industry innovations Virgin America will be remembered for.
“Not just mood lighting, but innovations that were copied by some other airlines, such as a spending-based frequent-flier program, fleet wide Wi-Fi, in-seat power at every row, at-seat food and beverage ordering, and a focus on fresher and organic foods,” said Harteveldt.
Changes in the airports
Overnight, after the final Virgin America flights were completed at 29 airports, Alaska switched out all the Virgin America branding, including all signs and screens at curbside locations, lobbies, ticket counters, gates and baggage areas. Virgin America employees also switched to using Alaska’s computer systems.
This means that as of Wednesday morning, Virgin America operations have disappeared.
“We’ll have a single flight network,” Alaska said in a statement. “All flights will be referred to as Alaska Airlines flights. There will only be Alaska ticket counters, gates and baggage claim areas. We’ll operate one website (alaskaair.com), one mobile app (Alaska’s) and only Alaska check-in kiosks at airports. We’ll have a single call center.
Alaska officials expect the official cutover (a process that has been rocky for some other airlines) to be uneventful.
“We’ve been working behind the scenes for over a year, investing thousands of hours of planning, preparation and testing to make sure this transition goes smoothly for all our guests,” said Sandy Stelling, who’s leading Alaska’s Passenger Service System transition effort.
A few remaining vestiges of the Virgin America brand will still be around.
“It will take us until the end of 2019 to update all the livery of the [Virgin America] Airbus aircraft and to retrofit the cabins,” Alaska said in a statement. “For a period of time, a guest could board an Airbus plane that’s painted in Alaska colors, but still has a Virgin America interior.”
SOURCE: USA Today