Carrier becomes fifth-largest airline in country

LIHUE — The merger of two airlines on Wednesday brings added competition to the domestic market, making the entity the fifth-largest airline in the United States.

Alaska Air Group Inc. announced it has closed its acquisition of Virgin America. The $2.6 billion agreement was signed in April and approved by Virgin America shareholders in July. The airlines will spend the next year working to secure Federal Aviation Administration certification to allow them to operate as a single carrier.

“Alaska Airlines and Virgin America are different airlines, but we believe different works — and we’re confident fliers will agree,” said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Air Group. “Together, we’ll offer more flights, with low fares, more rewards and more for customers to love, as we continue to offer a distinctive travel experience. The two airlines may look different, but our core customer and employee focus is very much the same.”

The combination expands service and provides more frequent connections to international airline partners in technology markets in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Seattle.

Alaska Airlines serves Kauai and three other Hawaiian islands with 86 weekly flights from the West Coast.

“At this point, it’s too soon to have any concrete details about future service or routes (in Hawaii), “said Daniel Chun, Alaska Airlines Hawaii regional sales manager, sales and community marketing, in an email. “We’re confident that both Alaska’s and Virgin America’s customers will see benefits right away from our newly-combined route network.”

The airlines also offer 289 daily flights to 52 destinations from California, including 113 daily nonstop flights to 32 destinations from three Bay Area airports and 105 daily nonstop flights to 37 destinations from four Los Angeles area airports.

In addition, the combination opens up growth opportunities in East Coast business markets by increasing Alaska Air Group’s access to high-demand airports like Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the three primary New York City-area airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport.

The company also announced new flights from its San Francisco hub to Orlando, Minneapolis and Orange County, California beginning in the summer of 2017. Schedule and availability will be announced Dec. 21.

Alaska Air Group has nearly 1,200 daily flights to 118 destinations, the most seats on flights from the West Coast and more than $7 billion annual revenues.

Soon, Virgin America customers will have access to a route network that offers six times more daily flights than before.

No decisions regarding the Virgin America brand have been made. Alaska plans to continue to operate the Virgin America fleet with its current name and product for a period of time while it conducts extensive customer research to understand what fliers value the most. Virgin America will continue to fly under its brand with no immediate changes to the on-board product or experience.


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