Alaska Airlines is moving to takeover Virgin America in a landmark US$2.6 billion (A$3.4b) deal, consolidating the two brands as one under the existing ‘Alaska Airlines’ banner: but what does the merger mean for travellers and frequent flyers jetting to the USA and beyond?
For the moment, not too much – both airlines will continue as normal, meaning that flights will operate as they currently do, frequent flyer points can be earned and redeemed without change and lounges will continue to welcome the same travellers.
That means if you’ve booked a flight with Alaska Airlines or Virgin America, or were making a new booking, your flight reservation will be honoured as usual with Qantas Frequent Flyer members earning points on Alaska Airlines flights and Virgin Australia Velocity members earning with Virgin America.
Single frequent flyer scheme
Those arrangements are expected to remain in place until at least January 1 2017 – by which time the airlines anticipate regulatory approval for the merger will have been granted and the mammoth task of absorbing Virgin America into Alaska Airlines can begin.
During the process, Virgin America’s own Elevate frequent flyer program will cease to exist, with all Elevate members welcomed into the Alaska Airlines MileagePlan scheme and any remaining Elevate points converted into MileagePlan miles at a rate to be determined.
Also unknown is whether the new Alaska Airlines will be an airline partner in Virgin Australia’s Velocity scheme – as is currently Virgin America – or whether Alaska’s existing tie-up with Qantas Frequent Flyer will continue.
Whatever the circumstances, the process of joining both airlines and rebranding Virgin America as Alaska Airlines is on-track for completion by Q1 2018, by which time Virgin America as we know it will be taking its final flight.
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