The best airline in America will disappear forever in 2019

Richard branson virgin americaHandout/Getty ImagesVirgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson.

It’s official, Virgin America’s days are numbered.

On Wednesday, Alaska Airlines Group confirmed that the Virgin America brand will be retired in 2019.

“We spent the last 10 months conducting extensive research and listening carefully to what fliers on the West Coast want most,” Alaska Airlines vice president of marketing Sangita Woerner said in a statement.

“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 us to continue to deliver low fares.”

However, many of the elements that made Virgin America the best airline in North America are expected to live on.

They include, “enhanced in-flight entertainment, mood lighting, music, and the relentless desire to make flying a different experience for guests,” Alaska wrote in the statement.

In December, Alaska Airlines completed the $US2.6 billion acquisition of Virgin America, and the newly-merged airline with be the nation’s fifth largest — behind American, Delta, United, and Southwest.

The new Seattle-based airline will operate a fleet of more than 280 aircraft on 1,187 daily flights. With Virgin America in the fold, Alaska Airlines will be able to bolster its position as a powerhouse West Coast rival for Southwest Airlines. In addition, Virgin’s boutique product offering and award-winning service will provide Alaska access to a different set of clientele.

Virgin America InteriorVirgin AmericaVirgin America Airbus A320 cabin.

According to Alaska, it plans to overhaul its operation to give passengers a more “Virgin-esque” experience in the form of a new satellite based wifi system, free inflight movies, redesigned interiors with mood lighting, more stylish crew uniforms, upgraded airport lounges, more premium seating, and more complimentary upgrades.

San Francisco-based Virgin America was founded in 2007 with Richard Branson’s Virgin Group holding 25% of the airline’s equity. With its sale to Alaska Air, Virgin Group divested its shares and will allow the newly-merged airline to use its branding under licence.

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