California-based carrier Virgin America will be fully absorbed by Alaska Airlines by the end of 2019 as the latter pushes to become the dominant airline in the West Coast.
The announcement by Alaska Air Group comes only three months after it completed the $2.6-billion acquisition of the popular airline launched by billionaire Richard Branson (See: Alaska Air Group closes $2.6-bn acquisition of Virgin America).
In the months following the acquisition the Alaska Air Group had operated the two carriers as separate subsidiary airlines, with the ultimate goal of combining their forces to compete against bigger air rivals.
''We are going to be able to create a real, strong, integrated airline for travelers on the West Coast,'' said Andrew Harrison, chief commercial officer for Alaska Airlines.
The combined operations of the two carriers boast a fleet of 286 planes that fly to 118 destinations and a workforce of 19,000 people.
The combined entity would emergw the fifth-largest carrier in the US, behind American, Delta, United and Southwest Airlines.
Alaska Airlines would, next year, introduce new cabin seats and, in some planes, Virgin America's distinctive blue lighting. Alaska Airlines' staff would also get new uniforms created by Seattle fashion designer Luly Yang.
Alaska Airlines also plans to make permanent a temporary promotion that gave passengers free access to over 200 movies and TV shows.
According to commentators, the acquisition of Virgin America was not for the carrier's brand appeal, rather Alaska eyed Virgin America's gates in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
There was no other way to for Alaska to get the gates and also Virgin's rights in Washington and New York.
The fact that Alaska was able to knock out a West Coast competitor, even as it hoped to retain most of its customers was an added bonus.
They point out that the new Alaska had already expanded in California, something that might not have been possible without the acquisition.