The Virgin America brand has been officially retired.
The final Virgin America flight, VX1182 operated by Airbus A320 N361VA, touched down at Newark Liberty International Airport a little after 0530 Wednesday morning (local time), following its five-hour journey from San Francisco.
The airline, which commenced operations in August 2007 and had Sir Richard Branson’s UK-based Virgin Group as one of its shareholders, will continue to live on under the Alaska Airlines brand, following its acquisition in April 2016 at a cost of US$4 billion.
However, the physical reminders of Virgin America, such as airport signage and checkin kiosks, have been removed, with staff now wearing the Alaska Airlines uniform. Meanwhile, the repainting of Virgin America’s 67 aircraft will be completed over the coming months.
The two carriers began flying under a single operating certificate in January, and now have a single passenger reservations system.
The union of Virgin America and Alaska Airlines brings together Virgin America’s all-Airbus fleet of A320s and A321s with Alaska Airlines’ fleet of Boeing 737s, with key hubs in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle on the US west coast.
There were celebrations across all of Virgin America-served airports throughout Tuesday, with airline staff, aviation enthusiasts and passengers all paying tribute to an airline recognised for its youthful outlook and in-cabin touches such as purple mood lighting.
— Reyner Crosby (@reyner) April 25, 2018
— The Airchive (@TheAirchive) April 25, 2018
In an Australian context, a beefed-up Alaska Airlines has benefits for Qantas customers.
In April, Qantas announced it would increase the number of codeshare destinations on Alaska Airlines-operated services from Los Angeles and San Francisco to 52, from 25 destinations previously, across North and Central America.
“The new flights are in addition to Qantas’s existing codeshare arrangements on 25 Alaska Airlines services and follows the full integration of the Virgin America network into the Alaska Airlines network, which will be completed on 25 April 2018,” Qantas said in a note to travel agents on April 9.
“In addition to being able to earn and redeem points on more Alaska Airlines services, eligible Qantas customers will also be able to access Alaska’s lounge network in available cities.”
The codeshares with Alaska Airlines could become even more important in the period ahead, depending on the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) decision on American Airlines and Qantas’s application for an expanded alliance on trans-Pacific routes.
The pair said in its application to the DOT it would likely wind back cooperation, particularly on codesharing behind the respective gateways at the Australian and US end, should the proposed joint business agreement (JBA) be blocked for a second time.
“If the proposed JBA is not approved, American plans to eliminate codesharing on all 53 destinations from Los Angeles and all eight destinations from San Francisco,” the application said.
“The choice of codeshare cuts is limited to where American can flow the affected passengers over LAX and onto its own LAX-SYD service.”
There has also been some impact on the end of Virgin America as an operating carrier in its own right at Virgin Australia, particularly for members of the Australian airline’s Velocity frequent flyer program.
The ability for Velocity members to earn points and status credits on Virgin America-operated flights ended on September 30 last year. Benefits for eligible frequent flyers such as priority checkin, priority boarding and lounge access also ended on that date.
While Virgin Australia has an extensive trans-Pacific alliance with Delta Air Lines covering Australia-US routes, not having Virgin America as a partner has meant the loss of some nonstop connection options from Los Angeles not served by Delta.
The end of Virgin America leaves just two Virgin-branded airlines around the world – Virgin Australia and UK-based Virgin Atlantic.
Previous Virgin-branded airlines include Virgin Nigeria, Brussels-based Virgin Express, Virgin Express France, British charter operator Virgin Sun and Virgin Samoa (a joint venture between Virgin Australia and the Samoa government).
VIDEO: A look back at 10 years of Virgin America, one of only two videos left on Virgin America’s YouTube channel.
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