Mar 27, 2017 06:28 AM EDT

Alaska Air Group To Retire Virgin America Brand In 2019

Virgin America
SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 08: Two Virgin America planes taxi on the runway after arriving at San Francisco International Airport after their first flights from New York and Los Angeles August 8, 2007 in San Francisco, California.
(Photo : Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)

It has been three months since Alaska Air Group completed its $4 billion acquisition of Virgin America, the popular airline launched by billionaire Richard Branson. In two years, Alaska Airlines will be fully absorbing the Virgin America brand and will drop the popular name as it competes against bigger rivals.

Alaska Air Group operated Alaska Airlines and Virgin America as separate subsidiary airlines at the start of the acquisition. After a 10-month research among customers, the company found out that in order to be successful, they have to operate under one name.

In a statement (via Seattle Times), Alaska’s vice president of marketing, Sangita Woerner, said, “While the Virgin America name is beloved to many, we concluded that to be successful on the West Coast we had to do so under one name—for consistency and efficiency, and to allow is to continue to deliver low fares.”

While Alaska Air Group will keep many of Virgin America’s distinctive elements such as enhanced in-flight entertainment, mood lighting, and music, it is set to make a few significant changes over the coming years.

According to CNN Money, Virgin America’s fleet of Boeing jets will get all new cabins starting in 2018 with new first and economy class seating. First class seating will be expanded by 50 percent and is coming in the fourth quarter of next year.

Passengers will also be able to check their email and social media feeds as high-speed satellite Wi-Fi is being added to the fleet in fall 2018, starting with the Boeing 737s. Permanent free movies and TV episodes will be available on streaming to passengers’ devices, and in August, seat-back screens will have the same content.

In an emotional blog post, Richard Branson penned a farewell letter to Virgin America, saying that it was “a long and hard journey but in the end you are the best consumer airline in America.”

“You proved that it is possible to create a business with a terrific culture and a brand that people love,” he said.

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