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Looking Back: Alaska Says Farewell to Final Relics of Virgin America Brand

Alaska removed the last remaining elements of the once beloved airline.

A Virgin America Airbus A321neo landing at San Francisco International Airport. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fangzhong Guo)

Alaska Airlines has officially concluded service with its Airbus fleet as of September 30. The aircraft, registered N921VA, left Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and arrived at Los Angeles International Airport as AS1126. The flight crew also paid tribute to the aircraft’s original owner, Virgin America, by circling above its old headquarters over the bay area. 

Make Flying Good Again

Despite its ambition to make flying good again, it was not well received in the airline industry. The Department of Transportation initially rejected the airline’s operator certificate application due to complaints from other airlines, which caused the airline to restructure its ownership.

Virgin America finally began service on August 8, 2007. It eventually became the first airline to offer fleetwide WiFi, mood lighting, touch-screen seatback entertainment, and power outlets at every seat on every flight. It was known as the fun airline among travelers.

Even the airline’s safety cards use bold colors. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fangzhong Guo)

The Fun Airline

The airline was constantly finding new ways to differentiate itself from its competitors. In addition to the products and services offered, it also created a lot of exposure in other channels. 

The airline partnered with CW in 2010 to create a reality TV show that followed five of Virgin America’s flight attendants. While the intention was to create more buzz for the company, the show received a lot of criticism for ignoring reality and sexism. 

Virgin America partnered with CW on a reality TV show. (Photo: CW)

While the airline fumbled on the publicity stunt, it had a lot more success with innovative amenities such as free Netflix streaming when it upgraded its inflight WiFi. 

Speaking of entertainment, probably everyone who’s flown with Virgin America remembers the fun safety dance. There are even videos of passengers on the company’s last flight singing along with the safety video.

A Young Fleet

The success of the airline was also built on a young fleet. It started with all-new airplanes and was the launch customer for Airbus A321NEO. In fact, it was the first A321NEO ever to enter commercial service that operated the last Airbus flight at Alaska Airlines. 

At its peak, it operated 67 aircraft, which consisted of 53 Airbus A320ceo, 10 Airbus A319ceo, and four A321neo aircraft. Although the merger with Alaska removed almost all signs of Virgin America ever existed, the airplanes stayed in the Seattle-based airline fleet for five years until last week.

More to Love

The Alaska Air Group acquired Virgin America in April 2016. It continued operating under its name and brand until the airline was fully merged into Alaska Airlines in April 2018. The entire fleet underwent retrofits that took out Virgin America’s signature mood lighting and the plush seats.

During the transition period, the newly formed airline group created the More to Love campaign to win over loyal Virgin customers. In addition to treats served onboard, it painted three airplanes with the hybrid More to Love livery. Two planes were Virgin’s A321neo, which exited with the rest of the Airbus planes. The last one, a Boeing 737-900ER, is getting repainted two days after the airline’s last Airbus flight. There is no more to love about the once quirky, fun, and different airline. 

Alaska’s new “More to Love” special livery celebrating the merger with Virgin America (Photo: Tim Jue

Fangzhong Guo

Author

  • Fangzhong Guo

    Fangzhong grew up near an OEM airport in northeastern China, where he developed his enthusiasm for aviation. Taking upon his passion, he's now working as an aircraft interior design engineer. Besides working in the aerospace industry, Fangzhong enjoys trying out different types of airplanes and seeing how airplane interiors have evolved. So far, he's flown on over 80 types of aircraft. He also planespots in his spare time. His rarest catches included the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and AN-225.

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