Virgin America

Virgin Atlantic lands in Seattle & is welcomed by Sir Richard Branson

Courtesy Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic marked its new service between London Heathrow and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Monday with an inaugural flight from London to Seattle that featured a live-streamed in-flight performance by up-and-coming UK pop-star Raye and an on-the-ground welcome of the Boeing 787-9 by Sir Richard Branson, President of Virgin Atlantic.

Virgin Atlantic’s service replaces the flight currently operated by the carrier’s joint partner Delta Air Lines and will increase the annual capacity on the route by the more than 40,000 seats, Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger told Today in the Sky during the flight to Seattle.

“The Seattle market also fits better with the Virgin brand,” said Kreeger, “Seattle is a young, entrepreneurial, innovative, outdoorsy risk-taking kind of city and when you think of the element of the Virgin Atlantic brand and who we attract, it just seems like a great fit.”

At a press conference following the arrival of the flight and the kick-off of several days of in-city celebrations and events, Kreeger noted that the Virgin brand was already well known in Seattle and on the west coast thanks to the airline’s U.S. sister, Virgin America.

Alaska Airlines (Delta’s major competitor in the Seattle market) purchased Virgin America last year for $2.6 billion and announced last week that while Alaska will adopt some of Virgin America’s amenities and some of its cool ‘vibe,’ it will retire the Virgin America name and brand by 2019.

Noting that he thought he’d be polite when asked about that decision, “But I decided not to be,” Branson shared his thoughts on that decision at the post-flight news conference.

“It’s baffling and sad,” said Branson, “When I sat down with Alaska, I genuinely believed that they would treasure the brand, that they would treasure the people, that they would treasure the product and that they knew what they were buying,” he said. “And that the last thing they would do would be to rip the heart out of it, which seems effectively like what they decided to do.”

“It just seems such a waste,” said Branson, “I wonder what it was that Alaska bought and why did they bother?”

Branson also noted that Alaska has to continue on paying royalties on the Virgin America brand under the licensing deal until 2040, “despite what you might have been told.”

The Virgin Atlantic route to Seattle (VS105) departs Heathrow daily at 1:20 p.m. and arrives in Seattle at 3 p.m. and leaves Seattle daily at 5:50 p.m. and arrives the next day in London at 10:50 a.m.

 

The route is being served by a Boeing 787-9 aircraft with 264 seats, including 31 lie-flat “Upper Class” seats, 35 premium economy seats and 198 economy seats.

Photo – Harriet Baskas

 

 

 

Alaska Airlines announces plans for Virgin America

Photo by Harriet Baskas

It comes as no surprise, but Alaska Airlines announced its plans for the Virgin America name and brand and has decided that it’s going to keep the Alaska’s name and logo and retire the Virgin America name “likely sometime in 2019,” according to a company statement.

That’s bad news for those who love the Virgin America overall brand, vibe and amenities. But the good news is that Alaska Airlines is keeping its word and bringing some of the best Virgin America amenities forward.

Alaska says it will adopt “enhanced in-flight entertainment, mood lighting, music and the relentless desire to make flying a different experience for guests” as part of an overall goal to create “a warm and welcoming West Coast-inspired vibe.”

Alaska says it will adopt some other Virgin America touches including introducing music by new artists  on planes, in airport lobbies and at gates (2017); redesigning the cabin with new seats and amenities (2018) and introducing new uniforms by fashion designer Luly Yang (mid-2019) for flight attendants, customer service agents, pilots, mechanics and ground crew.

Alaska also promises to upgrade the Wi-Fi connectivity fleet-wide, add more premium seats, expand the lounge network and offer other new amenities you can read about here.

What do you think?

Alaska Air marks Virgin America merger with special plane & a party

On Wednesday, Alaska Airlines flew a special liveried plane bearing the slogan “More to Love” from Seattle to San Francisco to mark the official closing of the carrier’s acquisition of Virgin America.

I covered the day for USA TODAY and you can read my story there about some of the details of the “going forth” plans shared during the day – most notably that, for now, Virgin America will stay branded as Virgin America, moonlit cabins and all, and that the mileage plans will be reciprocal.

But here are some pictures from the day:

 

*(All photos by Harriet Baskas)

Virgin America celebrate SF Giants

Virgin America Plane Decal Mockup Sergio_edited

Mockup, courtesy Virgin America

If, like Virgin America, you’re a fan of the SF Giants, then keep an eye on the sky for the carrier’s Airbus A320 airplane painted with a 2016 SF Giants aircraft design.

The “Fly Bye Baby” aircraft features star pitcher Sergio Romo on the fuselage, winding up for a pitch.

The airline is celebrating its ninth birthday at San Francisco’s AT&T Park on August 20 – when the SF Giants take on the Mets – by giving the first 40,000 attendees a two-for-one Virgin America flight voucher.

 

Alaska Airlines buying Virgin America

Alaka and Virgin plane

Last month Alaska Airlines was chasing the sun , this month they’re buying Virgin America.

The announcement was made official this morning in a press release that gives the purchase price $2.6 billion.

“Including existing Virgin America indebtedness and capitalized aircraft operating leases, the aggregate transaction value is approximately $4.0 billion,” the airline said in a release.

Alaska airlines said the deal expands its existing footprint in California and “bolsters its platform for growth and strengthens the company as a competitor to the four largest U.S. airlines.”

Virgin America customers get more service into the Silicon Valley and Seattle, more frequent connections to Alaska’s international airline partners on flights out of Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles and access to some slot-controlled airports such as Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, JFK and LaGuardia.

With our expanded network and strong presence in California, we’ll offer customers more attractive flight options for nonstop travel. We look forward to bringing together two incredible groups of employees to build on the successes they have achieved as standalone companies to make us an even stronger competitor nationally.”said Brad Tilden, chairman and CEO of Alaska Air Group, in a statement.

“Joining forces with Alaska Airlines will ensure that our mission lives on, and that the stronger, combined company will continue to be a great place to work and an airline that focuses on an outstanding travel experience,” said David Cush, Virgin America president and CEO in the morning news release.

The company headquarters will stay in Seattle and Virgin America Elevate members will get folded into the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.

More on this later…