Bidding a fond adieu to quirky Virgin America Airlines

Bye Bye Virgin America Airlines hello Alaska

Alaska absorbs the little airline that was
Patti Pietschmann reporting

An Elevate member and avid fan of Virgin America I was disheartened to learn that it soon will be eaten up by its newish owners Alaska Airlines. This was really surprising especially after Alaska awarded Elevate members generous extra miles to convert from Virgin to it (which I did). (Also check out Delta vs Virgin America).
Below is onde of the First Class meals I enjoyed on Virgin America

That’s me using the free WiFi in the Loft, VA’s lofty LAX lounge, before the flight hope Alaska keeps its.

Alaska made it official yesterday sending out press releases that read, “Alaska Airlines and Virgin America today shared their vision for the future of the combined carrier, as the company solidifies its status as the West Coast’s premier airline”

“After careful consideration, the combined company will adopt Alaska’s name and logo, retiring the Virgin America name likely sometime in 2019. However, the combined airline will adopt many of the brand elements that Virgin America enthusiasts love about their favorite airline, including enhanced in-flight entertainment, mood lighting, music and the relentless desire to make flying a different experience for guests. The goal is to create a warm and welcoming West Coast-inspired vibe.”
“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,” said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Air Group. “Three months in, we’ve dramatically grown our presence in California and are united behind a new purpose: Creating an airline people love.”
Alaska has been actively growing the airlines’ newly combined networks since closing the merger in December. Earlier this month, the airline announced 21 new markets with 25 new daily departures out of San FranciscoSan DiegoLos Angeles and San Jose, California – marking the largest addition of routes in the company’s history.
“We spent the last 10 months conducting extensive research and listening carefully to what fliers on the West Coast want most,” said Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of marketing. “While the Virgin America name is beloved to many, we concluded that to be successful on the West Coast we had to do so under one name – for consistency and efficiency, and to allow us to continue to deliver low fares.”
Alaska said it  will spend the next few years making major enhancements and incorporating favorite elements of the Virgin America experience.
Enhancements include:
  • Modern, warm and welcoming vibe – Music from fresh new artists will be featured on planes, in airport lobbies and at gates. In 2018, Alaska will debut an entirely redesigned cabin with new seats and amenities, and has 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.
  • Satellite connectivity – Alaska’s entire fleet of Boeing 737 passenger aircraft will be equipped with high-speed satellite Wi-Fi beginning in fall 2018, with the remainder of the Airbus fleet to follow. Both fleets are expected to be fully satellite-equipped by the end of 2019.
  • More premium seats –Premium seating will be expanded across the Airbus fleet beginning in the fourth quarter of 2018. The number of First Class seats will increase by 50 percent (going from eight seats in the Airbus First Class cabin to 12) and are customized for enhanced comfort, featuring 41 inches of pitch, improved seatback storage pockets, cup holders, footrests and personal power outlets throughout the cabin. The redesigned Airbus cabins will also feature 18 new Premium Class seats with 35 inches of pitch and complimentary beer, wine and cocktails.
  • The country’s top-ranked frequent flier program – 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 50 percent more premium seats being introduced to the Airbus fleet, elite loyalty members will enjoy the most generous complimentary upgrades in the industry. 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 aircraft will debut for the first time ever in late 2018.
  • Free movies – In January, Alaska launched a temporary promotion offering its entire catalog of more than 200 movies and TV shows for free. Starting now, free entertainment on guests’ own devices will be a permanent feature on its 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™ – In January 2017Alaska became the first and only U.S. airline to offer Free Chat onboard and will expand Free Chat to Airbus-operated flights in August 2017. Guests can stay connected to friends and family on the ground via Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and iMessage.
  • West Coast-inspired food and beverage – Alaska and Virgin America continue to enhance their fresh, healthy, West Coast-inspired onboard food and beverage menus. Both airlines will sell y craft brews, premium wines and imroved 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, there will be expanded airport lounges in SeattlePortland and Los Angeles, as well as new lounges in San Francisco and at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The expansion plans will double the square footage of Alaska’s airport lounges. Members also currently enjoy access to more than 60 partner lounges throughout the United States and around the world.
Fans of Virgin America still have time to enjoy the ride.

Delta vs Virgin America

A tale of First Class flights on two very different airlines

 

As members of  both Delta and Virgin America‘s frequent flyer programs we decided to  spread the miles for a June trip to Maui by flying Delta over and Virgin back. .  Wealso flew Delta later that month from Los Angeles to Alaska to catch the Seven Seas Mariner for a magical week-long cruise.

                                               Scene from Delta from Vancouver to Seattle

We flew in First Class on all three flights and what a difference an airline can make. We flew Delta First Class (scene from window of Washington) to Maui and Virgin America First Class back to Los Angeles. Both flights were thankfully uneventful and not to thankfully fair  for the  fare. Delta served breakfast, an omelette that was edible and great bread, one miserly glass of Champagne. The stew said hey only brought on bottle aboard. “In First Class,” I countered slightly irate but toned  down because I didn’t want to show any air rage.  The seats were okay  but hardly reclined. There was good leg  room though. Our bags were out fast in Maui,  too. Oh yeah and the earphones in First were those awful ear buds  I hate.

Flying from Maui on Virgin America was a huge disappointment for us Elevate  members. The food wasn’t edible, the service fair, the entertainment/WiFi system down,the wine  undrinkable but the seats really comfy. It wasn’t up to Virgin America muster at all. And to make matters worse we flew on June 19, 2016 and still don’t have our Elevate points posted to our account. Although the airline did give us some travel dollars credit  for our discomfort.

Now we just did  flights from LAX to Anchorage via Seattle  and back from Vancouver BC on Delta that was much more worth the First Class fare. The food was tasty, the seats comfy and the flight crew were just so happy and accommodating especially  on return leg from Vancouver.

 

Flying First Class has its privileges such as two free checked bags, free food (which is usually better on Virgin America than we got on the Maui  run) and drink, more leg room, wider, more comfy seats than in coach some that even drop into flat beds, priority boarding and baggage arrival. In all fairness Virgin America is new to the Los Angeles-Maui schedule having just launched in June so maybe it needs to get the kinks out. I hope so  because I love that quirky  airline that reminds me so  much of the old PSA Airlines which was the outrageously fun to  fly with.