Updates on Alaska Airlines and Virgin America Merger


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Alaska Airlines is moving fast to complete their merger with Virgin America since it became official in December 2016, and they’re also moving fast to dominate the West Coast. Alaska looks to be implementing the largest expansion of additional new routes and markets in company history, which seemed to be the plan for the buyout all along.

What we didn’t know was the plan for the Virgin America brand. Virgin American has a large, loyal following of consumers who believe the company changed the airline industry with its hip music, ultra-cool mood-lighting, and fleet-wide on-demand entertainment.

However, Alaska Airlines announced that it will likely retire the Virgin America name and logo sometime in 2019. In addition, they’ll be eliminating the Virgin America Elevate mileage program on January 1, 2018.

Don’t worry about your points, though: Elevate points will automatically be transferred into the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program in early 2018. If you transfer your points now, you can score a 30% bonus at a rate of 1 Elevate point to 1.3 Mileage Plan™ miles.

That’s an excellent bonus, and quite fair given that the Elevate program was revenue-based and the Mileage Plan program was distance-based (giving you more Mileage Plan™ miles for your Elevate points).

It’s also worth noting that you will still be able to earn and redeem Elevate points on most partners through fall 2017, as well as on Virgin America flights until December 31, 2017.

Elevate Transitions to Mileage Plan
Keep track of important milestones as Elevate transitions to Mileage Plan. Image courtesy of Virgin America.

So what are we unclear on? Whether that bonus will still be in effect when miles automatically transfer over. A recent email from Virgin America emphasizes that “Now is the time to score big…when you convert your Elevate points.”

Unless you have an immediate need for those points, however, we think it’s best to keep them separate until closer to the transfer deadline in case you want to take advantage of any redemption options for your Virgin America points.

Bottom Line: You can now transfer your Elevate points to Mileage Plan™ miles with a 30% bonus before they are automatically transferred in early 2018. You can continue to earn and redeem Elevate points with most partners through fall 2017 and with Virgin America until the end of 2017.

If you’re not a Mileage Plan™ member, Alaska Airlines wants to give you 5,000 reasons to join. All you have to do is register on their website by April 30, take a single flight on either Alaska Airlines or Virgin America, and credit it to your Mileage Plan™ account by September 30; you will earn 5,000 bonus miles as a welcome.

Elevate members should have had a Mileage Plan™ account automatically created back in December, which offered a welcome of either 10,000 miles or a $100 credit. If you were an active member of both programs before December 5, 2016, you were likely targeted for a 10,000-mile celebratory bonus at the beginning of this year.

If you don’t remember, it’s worth checking your account to see if you were targeted for any of these offers!

Hot Tip: Alaska Airlines award reservations start at just 5,000 miles one-way plus taxes and fees.

As Alaska Airlines quickly evolves with the addition of Virgin America, they’ve promised to take on some of that Virgin style that loyal fans loved. Alaska plans to add on-demand entertainment streamed from your own device to its original Boeing fleet (which previously only rented tablets for a fee), and will play hip music during boarding with a cool Alaskan blue mood-lit cabin.

Another great perk from these rapid developments is that you can now use the companion certificate that comes annually with the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card for Virgin America flights.

This perk lets you add an additional passenger to an Alaska Airlines or Virgin America flight reservation booked on alaskaair.com for $99 plus taxes and fees (starting at $22).

The combined airline will also be upgrading its connectivity by installing high-speed satellite internet fleet-wide by 2019. They’ll also be synchronizing their fleet by adding more premium seats. You’ll see 18 dedicated premium class seats, plus an increased first class availability from 8 seats to 12 on all Airbus aircraft.

Alaska Airlines New First Class
Alaska Airlines will be updating the first class cabins on its new Airbus fleet and adding blue mood lighting to its cabins. Image courtesy of Alaska Airlines.

In a first for Virgin America flyers, rewards will be expanded with complimentary space-available upgrades to first class for elite status flyers. Customers will also get more options to earn and redeem their points with Alaska and Alaska Global Partners to more than 900 destinations worldwide.

Alaska Airlines, which does not belong to any global airline alliance, makes direct partnerships with a wide variety of airlines including Emirates and Hainan Airlines, offering tremendous redemption options using Mileage Plan™ miles on partner awards.

They’re continuing to expand these partnerships too. Alaska recently announced a new relationship with Condor, which connects some interesting North American airports like San Diego and Fairbanks directly to Germany. You can also connect to more than 60 destinations throughout Europe.

Overall, the merger between Alaska Airlines and Virgin America is moving quickly while trying to please customers from all sides by creating an airline that people love. They have offered perks to welcome members of both programs together and are also reaching out to potential customers by offering a welcome bonus if you give them a try.

We’re glad to see things are going smoothly with the merger, and we appreciate all the updates both airlines have been providing. Here’s looking forward to how the new Alaska Airlines elevates its hipness to keep that Virgin America vibe alive!


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