When your airline bae is about to go bye.
In a statement penned by Sir Richard Branson himself, Virgin America is poised to be bought out by and merged with Alaska Air.
And to be honest? I'm feeling pretty gutted about this.
It's no secret I love Virgin America and its product as someone based in the San Francisco Bay Area that often has to fly to New York or Boston for family visits. Their direct routing is great, their in-flight service is great, and my trips combined with using my Virgin Visa Signature Card made it real easy for me to accrue Elevate Points to redeem for some nice award space, like on Virgin Atlantic for Upper Class SFO-LHR.
But, alas, all good things must come to an end. With this merger, the Virgin Elevate system will apparently be phased out and Alaska's Mileage Plan will remain. While Alaska Air has a pretty loyal fanbase of its own in the Pacific Northwest and many top frequent flier travel blogs praise it as one of the better mileage programs right now in the US, I haven't really experienced their product but have heard it's simply meh. It's usually on time, it's consistent, but there's no in-flight entertainment and it's pretty much the difference between a hipster college kid and your grandma, as I've read.
If Alaska is smart, they'll adopt some of, if not all of, Virgin's awesome in-flight services and products to ease the sting many Virgin loyals feel right now, and they'll maintain the excellent direct flight routes between West and East Coast. If they can take the in-flight experience and routes of Virgin paired with their top-rated mileage plan and customer service, then it would potentially make this the best of both worlds and make Alaska a much more serious West Coast contender. In those circumstances, I could consider possibly moving shop to Alaska, but at the same time I'm not sure how likely that outcome is.
For right now, as the merger details get smoothed out, Alaska and Virgin will operate as normal with separate frequent flyer programs, but I suspect only for short-term. I have about 10k Elevate Points in my account right now after burning a lot of them for award space on Virgin Atlantic to get to Gatwick for part of my Italy routing this summer, and need to figure out what to do with them. I could burn them now on a short haul in the US, or wait and see how Alaska plans to roll them into Mileage Plan. I hope whenever and whatever they announce, it gives Elevate members enough time to decide whether to go to Alaska's plan or to use them up while they can.
In short, I'm incredibly sad to see my favorite airline is going away; and I suppose it's time to test the waters and find a new airline love. But it was a good run while it lasted, Virgin, and no one will quite ever be like you.