The highly regarded, much-beloved Virgin America is getting the ax.
Alaska Airlines, which acquired the carrier in a $2.6-billion merger in December, has announced plans to fully absorb the Virgin America brand by the end of 2019.
Seattle-based Alaska Airlines made the purchase in a bid to become the dominant carrier on the West Coast. Though Alaska has been known primarily for its affordability and reliable service, the company says it plans to keep the stylish touches and passenger perks that have won Virgin America such a devoted following, including the airline's trademark mood lighting, boarding music, and superior (and free) in-flight entertainment options. The airline is also expanding its first-class and premium seating to cater to Virgin America's business travelers and well-to-do trendsetters.
The popularity of the Virgin brand notwithstanding, Alaska has chosen to drop it for the sake of efficiency, consistency, and, last but certainly not least, expensive licensing fees, which Alaska will no longer have to pay to London's Virgin Group.
That conglomerate's billionaire founder, Richard Branson, sent a heartfelt message to Virgin America's employees and fans in a blog post. "Many tears are shed today," he wrote, calling the brand's demise "sad (and some would say baffling)."