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So long Virgin America, viva Alaska!


Above: We won't see the new cabin designs until 2018, but a current retrofit program is giving the new Alaska experience blue mood lighting as a common feature throughout the Airbus and Boeing fleets. That panel looks new though…

March 23, 2017 – Following Alaska Airlines’ acquisition of Virgin America, the airline has outlined its plans for the combined carrier, which includes refreshed cabin product and design. The plans also spell the end of the Virgin America brand, with the combined company adopting Alaska's name and logo, and retiring the Virgin America name in 2019.

"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."

However, Virgin America enthusiasts shouldn’t be too despondent as Alaska has stated that the combined airline will adopt many of the Virgin America brand elements, including its approach to in-flight entertainment, mood lighting, music and creating a distinctive passenger experience.

The new Alaska Airline experience, which will begin rolling out during 2017, is intended to create a warm ‘West Coast vibe’ throughout the journey. A major element of this plan is an entirely redesigned cabin with new seats and amenities, due to be revealed in 2018, in preparation for which Alaska has already started to retrofit select Boeing aircraft with blue mood lighting.

Building on Alaska's new First Class and Premium Class seating sections that debuted earlier this year, 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% (going from eight seats in the Airbus First Class cabin to 12, with a 41in pitch). The redesigned Airbus cabins will also feature 18 new Premium Class seats with 35in of pitch, and complimentary beer, wine and cocktails.

Another major change is that Alaska's entire fleet of Boeing 737 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.

Other changes being rolled out include music from new artists being featured on planes, in airport lobbies and at gates during 2017, while restyled uniforms by fashion designer Luly Yang will roll out in mid-2019 for flight attendants, customer service agents, pilots, mechanics and ground crew.

Written by Adam Gavine

23 March 2017

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