I completed my 20 minute long, life long dream of visiting all of the Priority Pass lounges at LAX. I was on the top of the world. But with only 15 minutes at the Alaska Lounge, I had to quickly make my way to my departure gate. Little did I know at the time the flight I was about to about to board was going to be my Virgin America swan song. It was the perfect way to cap off a great trip to New York.
The Alaska Airlines/Virgin America Merger
Back in December of 2016 Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America for $2.6. At the time most people thought that Alaska overpaid, and were upset to see the much loved brand get sold off. Virgin America’s claim to fame was its Customer friendly policies and its unique sense of style and Humor. When you boarded a Virgin flight, the second they hit you with the purple/pink mood lighting you knew you were in for an experience. It didn’t stop with the mood lighting. Their planes were among the most comfortable in the sky, especially for economy passengers. The combination of plush leather seating, decent legroom, and seat back screens on all planes made Virgin America one of a kind. Combine that with the unique process of being able to order free drinks and snacks right on your seat back screen. No domestic could match it.
This is why the Alaska’s acquisition really scared people. Others were not as worried. They felt Alaska, being a very customer-first airline, was the perfect company to buy Virgin. However, almost everyone thought that Alaska would not be crazy to just absorb Virgin America and lose that beloved brand. Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come.
Alaska’s Absorbs Virgin America
Over the next two years, Alaska slowly being to eat away at the things that made Virgin America unique. Alaska Airlines eliminated things such as on-screen ordering and the elevate frequent flier program. Then on April 24, Alaska Airlines put Virgin America out of its misery completely absorbing it into the Alaska brand. But that wasn’t the worst thing, far from it. In order to unify the brands, Alaska announced it would retrofit all Virgin America planes to make them match the Alaska skyle. This meant they were replacing the plush leather seats with new, less comfortable, slimline seats, removing, scrapping all seat back screens, and eliminating the pink mood lighting.
But let’s be honest, they weren’t trying to “unify” the brand. They wanted to make more room so they squeeze more seats in even if it cost customer comfort. The less comfortable slimline allowed alaska to fit more premium and first class seats onto the plane. This really pissed people off. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin America, said that Alaska Airlines Castrated Virgin. Of course, if he cared about that he probably wouldn’t have sold the airline.
History lesson aside, though I did not know it, this was my last Virgin America flight. As in April (review to come soon) I flew on the new retrofitted form Virgin plane. It was an extremely sad experience.
Sometimes it makes sense to book with points. Other times it would just be silly. This was one of those silly moments. My flight with Alaska could have been booked for $68 or 10,000 points. This would have been a terrible waste of valuable alaska points so I just booked it in cash. If you are on the west coast flights to/from Los Angeles are almost always cheap. The going rate for a LAX to SEA flight is $79 so $68 was a very good price for this route.
I don’t have status with any airline and my Alaska Airlines card does not provide me with early boarding. So I didn’t even bother getting to the gate until after boarding had started. But from what I saw boarding went smoothly. However boarding was notable, as somewhere inside of me I must have known this was the last Virgin America flight. The second I stepped onto the plane and saw those purple lights I got really excited and honestly I don’t know why. It’s not like I don’t fly all the time.
With the retrofit well underway I am not going to go into do much detail about the seats. I have already discussed them above, and it is becoming less likely that you will ever fly one. However, the seats are 17.7 inches wide and have 32 inches of Pitch.
The legroom is a bit tight, but that is only because the seats are leather and extremely plush. Personally, I will take a comfy but over an extra inch for my knees anyday. Though tall people may not agree with me.
As mentioned above the plane was equipped with seatback screens (my preferred method of IFE) as well as WIFI. However, as the seat back IFE had plenty to keep me entertained I did not even bother with the WIFI.
The flight itself was absolutely perfect. We took of on time and landed early. (a side note I seem to have the best luck with flights lately. My flights seem to only get delayed when I need them to). The flight was smooth. Most Importantly, the service itself was great, exactly what you would expect from Alaska/Virgin. However, by this point ordering food and drinks via the seat back screen.
While It is a shame Alaska decided to do away with the Virgin America brand and its legacy, my Alaska Airlines Flight from Los Angeles to Seattle was the perfect way to say goodbye to Virgin America.