So Long Virgin America: A Requiem for an Upstart Airline

By Anna Breuer on 24 April 2018
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Getting Virgin America off the ground required a series of battles.  While the scrappy airline was founded in 2004 by Richard Branson, it didn’t get U.S. government approval to operate until 2007 and that was only one of its many challenges.

“Remember that time from 2004 to 2007 when we leased planes that were sitting on the runway while we waited for the US government to give us a license so that we could make flying good again?,” Branson wrote in a goodbye letter penned one year ago when Alaska Airlines, which had acquired Virgin America in a bidding war, announced it would retire the Virgin brand.

“Remember the naysayers who said you could not create an experience-driven airline in the US and survive? Remember launch day – August 8th, 2007 – when even an epic tornado didn’t stop our brilliant team getting our first flight an on-time departure?”

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Branson and the Virgin America team introduced mood lighting, on-demand in-flight food, seat-to-seat chat, Netflix in the sky, and brought back the fun to flying. It was the only airline that gave one of its aircraft a hashtag, #nerdbird, a plane that flew, filled with techies, between San Francisco and Boston.

Calling it the “little airline that could,” he thanked customers for giving up earning miles on “blah airlines” to fly with them.

And very soon, the Virgin America name will be relegated to the dustbin of history, along with storied names such as Pan Am, Continental, TWA, US Air, and Northwest Orient.

Alaska will pull the plug on Virgin America tomorrow, April 25, as it merges all Virgin America customer-facing operations. Going forward, customers will use Alaska’s website, mobile app, and airport kiosks when traveling.

The airline promises “a single Alaska Airlines experience for all guests when shopping for flights, booking flights, and checking in at airports.”

“We’re hoping for the best but we’re prepared for the worst,” said Alaska Airlines’ CIO, Charu Jain, who is leading the integration of the two airlines’ systems.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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