Alaska Airlines drops Virgin America brand, business class seats

By David Flynn, March 23 2017
Alaska Airlines drops Virgin America brand, business class seats

Alaska Airlines will axe the Virgin American brand and with it, Virgin's white leather business class seats – which are referred to as 'first class' in US parlance.

In their place will go Alaska's new and decidedly conventional business class seats, with subdued light blue mood lighting replacing Virgin's vivid purple colour scheme.

The Virgin American brand will disappear by 2019 in a phased merger of the Alaska and Virgin fleets, Alaska Airlines execs tell TravelSkills blogger Chris McGinnis.

It's perhaps the final shoe to drop following Alaska's US$2.6 billion (A$3.4bn) takeover of the Branson-backed US venture in December 2016.

The eight white leather 'first class' recliners on Virgin's Airbus A319 and A320 jets will be replaced by 12 of Alaska's new premium seats, although this will see the pitch (or distance between the seats) slashed from 55 inches to 41 inches.

Is there an upside to the 'more seats, less legroom' scenario? Alaska promises to be more generous with upgrades for its top-tier frequent flyers.

"With 50 percent more premium seats being introduced to the Airbus fleet, elite loyalty members will enjoy the most generous complimentary upgrades in the industry," says Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines' VP of marketing, adding that complimentary upgrades to first class on the former Virgin fleet will debut "in late 2019".

Virgin’s 12 Main Cabin Select premium economy seats  (below) are also for the axe, with Alaska dropping in 18 of its Premium Class seats – with another reduction in legroom, down from 38 inches to 35 inches.

High-speed satellite Internet is also on the cards, beginning with Alaska's own Boeing 737s from late 2018 with Virgin's Airbus fleet to follow, until all the jets are wired – or rather, unwired – by the end of 2019.

Alaska Airlines is also talking up new lounges at San Francisco Terminal 2, where we'll see a rooftop space possibly with an outdoor deck, as well as New York's JFK airport, plus a refresh and expansion of existing lounges at Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles.

Read more: Alaska Airlines reveals fate of Virgin America


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jun 2014

Total posts 259

Never tried the First Class white seats but have the premium with VAmerica... great experience and woukd recommend VAmerica any time (in economy) now I'm more series so will try Delta cross country. Does AusBT know if Velocity members can still earn points with Alaska?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jul 2012

Total posts 117

Not at the moment.

Alaska is a Qantas partner though.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1192

The disappearance of VX from American skies is sad.  They were a breath of fresh air amidst what is a pretty dreary experience with all of the other US domestic carriers probably excluding Jet Blue.  VX had a hip brand, an innovative product and an engaged workforce.  Compared with the "prison warden"flight attendants and mad overhead locker crush experienced on other US domestics, VX was a revelation.

What Alaska appears to be changing it to is another vanilla US domestic product that is just so-so and leaves you wondering why you just don't save the money and fly with a LCC like Spirit or Frontier where, at least, you don't feel ripped off when the product is poor.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jun 2014

Total posts 259


Oh, I loved the in-flight safety video, the feel and cabin mood lighting too. Oh... I'll miss them... I preferred them to VA here in Aus until The Business came out and they upped their game with Cabin crew

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Jan 2016

Total posts 62

Great airline, really sad to see it go.  Wife and I were stuck in Vegas a few years back unable to get to New York because of the winter storms.  

Our VX flight from LAS-NY got to us in Vegas but could not leave for NY.  So VX refunded our money,  hand wrote new bag tags for our hold luggage and offered passengers seats on the plane as it headed back to base in SFO for free. I have flow VX in the states ever since, and have not been disappointed once.   

30 Jul 2015

Total posts 134

Bye Bye virgin America. 

06 Feb 2014

Total posts 114

Problem in a thin margin business is the Virgin Group charges big licencing fees to use their brand and this is a cost that really isn't needed once you have established scale.  For a non profitable Virgin Australia you really wonder if it's value for money???

26 Jul 2015

Total posts 75

Well, won't be flying them again.

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 163

I used to love VX until one day when an arrogant little **** refused me access to the lounge in LAX as a Platinum VA member and refused to accept evidence I showed him from the website. Their onboard service was also great the first few years, but eventually dropped significantly and ended up the same as other carriers. I'll take instant upgrade fares on AA now and get a good SC:$ ratio rather than fly Alaska.


14 Aug 2013

Total posts 28

probably should correct the text.  the brand being jettisoned is Virgin America, not Virgin American.

VX is by far the best domestic US carrier from a passenger experience perspective.   accessible pricing of Select and First seats has been a competitive hallmark.

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