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Virgin America flies final flight, Alaska Airlines takes over

It’s the end for Virgin America.

On April 24, 29 U.S. airports removed all Virgin America signage from ticket counters, baggage claim, curbside check-in and kiosks. The signage was replaced with Alaska Airlines (ALSK) logos overnight.

Virgin America also flew its final flight— Flight 1947 from Los Angeles to San Francisco at 9:35 p.m. on Tuesday — signaling the official end of the low-cost carrier started by Richard Branson in 2007.

Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America for whopping $2.6 billion back in December 2016. Branson had hoped his brand would stay intact, but in March 2017 it was announced that the two carriers would merge under the Alaska Airlines brand. In January, Alaska received a single operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Although you can no longer book a flight through Virgin America, you will still see its presence on airport runways. Alaska won’t get a chance to paint the Virgin America planes with their company logo until Q4 of 2018. In addition, the interior of Virgin America planes will be retrofitted to match the rest of the Alaska Airlines’ fleet in the fall. This retrofitting will also feature updates to the cabin, including streaming entertainment, satellite Wi-Fi, and mood lighting.

Change will happen gradually, which means it’s possible that you could soon board a plane with an Alaska exterior and a Virgin America interior. Alaska says all changes will be finished in 2019.

More changes are coming

As Alaska Airlines moves forward with its operations, customers will likely have to make some adjustments.  

First, the two airlines’ electronic platforms have been merged. So, if you visit VirginAmerica.com you will be automatically redirected to the Alaska Airlines website. Customers will also have to download the Alaska Airlines mobile app to check in, view your flights, and check your loyalty program status.

Speaking of, the Virgin America Elevate program has ended. If you didn’t switch your points over manually, Alaska has already moved your Elevate points into your Alaska Air Mileage Plan account at a rate of 1 point per 1.3 miles. To activate your account, go to Alaskaair.com and enter your former Elevate number.

Virgin America will now operate fully under Alaska Airlines.

If you had Gold or Silver status in Elevate, you’ll be matched to an equivalent status in the Mileage Plan program. To keep your status in the future, however, you must re-qualify by meeting the thresholds set by the Mileage Plan Program.

For Virgin America credit card holders, it’s time to explore other options. That program has officially ended, so it may be time to apply for the Alaska Airlines credit card, which comes with a 30,000 miles sign-up bonus and gives you three miles for every dollar spent on Alaska Airlines purchases. If you have Virgin America Travel bank credits, you can still use them to purchase flights on Alaska Airlines.

While there will certainly be some growing pains, Alaska Airlines is hopeful that customers will quickly see benefits from the merger. By joining forces, the airline now offers nearly double the daily flights from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and seven times more daily flights between the West Coast and Hawaii.

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