airline merger

What? Alaska Airlines to merge with Hawaiian Airlines

On Sunday, Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines announced a plan to merge in a deal that has line Alaska Airlines buying Hawaiian Airlines for $1.9 billion.

“This combination is an exciting next step in our collective journey to provide a better travel experience for our guests and expand options for West Coast and Hawai‘i travelers,” said Ben Minicucci, Alaska Airlines CEO in a statement.

Peter Ingram, Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO said, “Since 1929, Hawaiian Airlines has been an integral part of life in Hawai‘i, and together with Alaska Airlines we will be able to deliver more for our guests, employees, and the communities that we serve.”

What does this mean for travelers?

While many details are still unknown, and some are likely to change before the deal officially goes through (a 12 to 18-month process) here are some of the highlights of this weekend’s announcement, from a message sent to customers on Sunday evening by Alaska’s Ben Minicucci:

The brands will remain: The Virgin America name was retired after it was purchased by Alaska Airlines. But Alaska Airlines says it plans to keep the Hawaiian Airlines brand on airplanes, at airports, and elsewhere. “It will exist alongside the Alaska Airlines brand, supported by a single operating platform and industry-leading loyalty program,” Minicucci said in his statement.

There will be more destinations: The deal will bring a combined network of 138 destinations, including non-stop service to 29 international destinations such as Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney, and Auckland, as well as over 1,200 global destinations through the oneworld Alliance, Alaska notes in its statement. The combined airline will have a fleet of 365 narrow- and wide-body airplanes, according to Alaska.

Headquarters to remain in Seattle: The new combined organization will be based in Seattle and headed by Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci, but Honolulu will become a new key hub.

What about ticket prices? There is where this deal could have a downside. “Competition between airlines is the single biggest cause of cheap flights,” notes Going’s Scott Keyes, “A merger between these two airlines—whose route maps have dozens of flights that overlap—would result not in more cheap flights for consumers, but fewer.”

How do the flight attendants feel about this?

On Sunday, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO (AFA), which represents over 6,800 Flight Attendants at Alaska Airlines and 2,200 Flight Attendants at Hawaiian Airlines, released a statement:

“Our first priority is to determine whether this merger will improve conditions for Flight Attendants just like the benefits the companies have described for shareholders and consumers. Our support of the merger will depend on this.

“As a practical matter, our union Constitution and Bylaws provides a detailed process for this review with AFA leadership from each airline. Mergers take time – this will not happen overnight. Our union will continue to press forward in negotiations at Alaska Airlines. Alaska Flight Attendants, joined by Hawaiian Flight Attendants, will be on the picket line on Dec. 19 as holiday travel takes off.”

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…