Alaska closes acquisition of Virgin America, becoming US’s fifth largest airline

Alaska Airlines Virgin America Image by Alaska Air Group

Alaska Air Group Inc. announced today it has closed its acquisition of Virgin America.

The definitive merger agreement, which was signed in April and approved by Virgin America shareholders in July, brings together two of the US’s favorite airlines into a unified force that will provide an attractive alternative to the “Big 4” airlines that currently control 84 percent of the domestic market. Alaska Airlines and Virgin America will spend the next year working to secure Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification to allow the two airlines to operate as a single carrier (with regional sister carrier Horizon Air remaining on its own separate operating certificate).

Boeing 737-900 Alaska Airlines Virgin AmericaA specially painted, co-branded Alaska Airlines and Virgin America 737-900ER, painted in shimmering red, purple and blue and featuring the slogan “More to love,” lands at San Francisco Airport (SFO) on December 14, 2016. The newly painted aircraft is part of the merger celebration of Alaska Airlines and Virgin America. Photo by Alaska Air Group

The combination expands service and provides more frequent connections to international airline partners in thriving technology markets in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Seattle. Together, the airlines offer 289 daily flights to 52 destinations from California, including 113 daily nonstop flights to 32 destinations from three Bay Area airports and 105 daily nonstop flights to 37 destinations from four Los Angeles area airports.

Alaska Airlines Virgin AmericaData by Alaska Air Group

In addition, the combination opens up growth opportunities in important East Coast business markets by increasing Alaska Air Group’s access to high-demand airports like Washington-Ronald Reagan (DCA) and the three primary New York City-area airports: John F. Kennedy (JFK), LaGuardia (LGA) and Newark-Liberty (EWR). The company also announced new flights from its San Francisco hub to Orlando (daily), Minneapolis (twice daily) and Orange County, California (four times daily) beginning in the summer of 2017.

Boeing 737-900 Alaska Airlines Virgin AmericaA specially painted, co-branded 737-900ER is parked at the gate at San Francisco Airport (SFO) on December 14, 2016; Photo by Alaska Air Group

No decisions regarding the Virgin America brand have been made. Alaska plans to continue to operate the Virgin America fleet with its current name and product for a period of time while it conducts extensive customer research to understand what fliers value the most. Virgin America will continue to fly under its brand with no immediate changes to the onboard product or experience.