Alaska Airlines made this announcement on its blog:
January 11, 2018 is a big day for Alaska Airlines. The company received a single operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration, which means the FAA now recognizes Alaska and Virgin America as one airline. It marks a major milestone in the integration of the two airlines.
Through that work, Alaska kept growing by adding 44 routes across its network, in addition to the 38 routes that were added with the acquisition of Virgin America.
Alaska now has the most West Coast nonstop destinations of any airline, and now offers nonstop service to 42 destinations from the Bay Area alone. And with 15 airline partners, Alaska can take its guests to more than 900 destinations around the world.
Combined Route Map:
What does it mean for me?
Obtaining a single operating certificate will not result in any immediate differences for guests when flying with Alaska or Virgin America. For now, customers will still use respective Alaska and Virgin America mobile apps, websites and airport terminals when traveling. But when Alaska and Virgin America move to a single reservations system in late April 2018, guests can expect a more streamlined travel experience, with the Alaska mobile app and website serving their travel needs.
When it comes to combining two companies, it’s a huge lift and takes a lot of effort. In working to obtain a single operating certificate, a dedicated team of employees from both carriers invested more than 70,000 hours to streamline and merge operating procedures, manuals and training programs.
Changes that benefit our guests
During integration, there have been a lot of accomplishments – large and small – to benefit guests:
- More than 200 free movies and TV shows can be streamed directly to personal devices plus free texting on Alaska and now Virgin America flights.
- At some airports, both airlines have co-located operations, with more to come.
- Flyers at both airlines now enjoy a single loyalty program (Mileage Plan) and credit card.
The new year means continuing integration progress. Here’s a look at some of what’s ahead:
- High-speed, satellite Wi-Fi is on the horizon for Alaska’s entire fleet of Boeing and Airbus aircraft beginning this spring.
- Upgrades to on-board menus, with more options in First Class; West Coast-inspired beer and wine choices; and new, fresh meal selections in the Main Cabin to join the popular fruit and cheese plate.
- Blue mood lighting will appear on more and more aircraft.
- Flight and ground crews begin wear-testing new uniforms designed by Seattle’s own Luly Yang, with a roll-out across the company in 2019.
- In January, the first Airbus plane gets painted with Alaska’s colors.
- Updated and expanded airport lounges are in the works, with New York’s JFK lounge opening in April, and the new 15,000 square-foot flagship lounge at Seattle opening next year.
Every day, Alaska Airlines is focused on creating an airline people love, with great service and value, low airfares and a generous loyalty program. With caring employees and a constant commitment to safety, Alaska is eager to be the airline of choice on the West Coast, and ready for a 2018 filled with new accomplishments.
Alaska closed its purchase of Virgin America in December 2016. Since then, a tremendous amount of work and planning has been done to align the operating policies and procedures of the two carriers, which is part of the thorough regulatory requirements established by the FAA to achieve a single operating certificate.
More than 110 employees from both airlines worked to obtain the single operating certificate. They logged approximately 70,000 hours; reviewed 346 different operational topics across 136 manuals; analyzed more than 39,000 pages of material; and instituted roughly 1,500 changes to policies and procedures throughout 68 various manuals. More than 10,500 frontline employees have been trained on the updated policies and procedures. As part of the single operating certificate approval process, Virgin America flight attendants were issued iPhones for their work duties, matching their Alaska counterparts; Virgin America pilots are now going through a validation period to receive iPads, similar to Alaska’s pilots.
There has been a steady flow of accomplishments on integration. Among them, as of Jan. 1, the Virgin America loyalty program integrated with Alaska Mileage Plan, and the company transitioned to a single payroll and benefits program. The single operating certificate allows Alaska to continue integration work that can only be achieved with the certification. An additional milestone will be reached in March when an Airbus operations control center will be co-located with one for Boeing aircraft at Alaska’s Flight Operations Center in Seattle.
All photos by Alaska Airlines.