Alaska Airlines will axe the Virgin American brand and with it, Virgin's white leather business class seats – which are referred to as 'first class' in US parlance.
In their place will go Alaska's new and decidedly conventional business class seats, with subdued light blue mood lighting replacing Virgin's vivid purple colour scheme.
The Virgin American brand will disappear by 2019 in a phased merger of the Alaska and Virgin fleets, Alaska Airlines execs tell TravelSkills blogger Chris McGinnis.
It's perhaps the final shoe to drop following Alaska's US$2.6 billion (A$3.4bn) takeover of the Branson-backed US venture in December 2016.
The eight white leather 'first class' recliners on Virgin's Airbus A319 and A320 jets will be replaced by 12 of Alaska's new premium seats, although this will see the pitch (or distance between the seats) slashed from 55 inches to 41 inches.
Is there an upside to the 'more seats, less legroom' scenario? Alaska promises to be more generous with upgrades for its top-tier frequent flyers.
"With 50 percent more premium seats being introduced to the Airbus fleet, elite loyalty members will enjoy the most generous complimentary upgrades in the industry," says Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines' VP of marketing, adding that complimentary upgrades to first class on the former Virgin fleet will debut "in late 2019".
Virgin’s 12 Main Cabin Select premium economy seats (below) are also for the axe, with Alaska dropping in 18 of its Premium Class seats – with another reduction in legroom, down from 38 inches to 35 inches.
High-speed satellite Internet is also on the cards, beginning with Alaska's own Boeing 737s from late 2018 with Virgin's Airbus fleet to follow, until all the jets are wired – or rather, unwired – by the end of 2019.
Alaska Airlines is also talking up new lounges at San Francisco Terminal 2, where we'll see a rooftop space possibly with an outdoor deck, as well as New York's JFK airport, plus a refresh and expansion of existing lounges at Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles.
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