Alaska Airlines (AS) has gotten government and regulatory approval to merge with long time rivals Virgin America (VX). What this merger would mean in terms of in flight services and amenities had yet to be seen, and with VX offering one of the most premium offerings out in the domestic American market, the airline’s frequent fliers were rightly concerned about what might be cut from the current Virgin offerings.
Well it seems as though things are going the other way around, with Alaska upping their game and upgrading their inflight offerings to better match Virgin’s product, news that will come as music to many a ear.
The airline has been progressively been announcing service enhancements as the approval procedures go through, and the latest one has just arrived – and it must be said it’s a good one.
Starting the beginning of 2017 Alaska Airlines has already offered the free usage of iMesasge, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger on their GoGo Wifi enabled aircraft – which makes up a considerable amount of their modern 737 fleet.
Well the airline is taking it further, now offering free usage of their WiFi to access Alaska’s online platform of inflight entertainment consisting of blockbuster movies and acclaimed television shows. Logging on through your device, you’ll have access of a generous library of entertainment options – some of which featuring in March include Oscar nominated movies The Revenant, Birdman and Trolls. TV shows that are on offer include Scandal, Big Bang Theory and Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics amongst other options. All these options are offered up for free viewing throughout the flight.
Now what do most people like to do whilst enjoying their favourite actor, movie or show? Drinks and snacks! And Alaska has revealed yet another trick up their sleeve in this realm too. Artisanal and local options are being added to the menu, and all have a distinct premium touch to them.
Woodford Reserve Bourbon, a Pacific Northwest staple, is now available free of cost to Premium Class passengers and at a price for Economy folks. Seattle’s own Freemont Interurban IPA, locally brewed in the city (and hometown of Alaska Airlines) will be available across the airline’s network and should prove to be a nice alternative to the more basic options of Budwiser and Coor’s Light.
All this is on top of the introduction of their new Premium Class cabin, which essentially doubles up as an ‘Economy Plus’ otherwise known as Main Cabin Select on pre-merger Virgin America aircraft. Passengers can upgrade to these sets that feature 4-6 inches more legroom at a cost of between $15-$76 per passenger. Better yet, the airline has already retrofitted 40% of their fleet at writing of this article – and Alaska estimates that approximately 90% of the fleet will have received the upgrade by year’s end.First Class has also gotten a retrofit – new seats are being installed simultaneously to the Premium Class upgrades which features 5 inches more legroom, with seat pitch going up from 36 to 41 inches per passenger.
Upgrades all around. Not bad Alaska, not bad.
Alaska has always had a core following given their reliable, no-nonsense and comfortable offerings up and down the West Coast and to Hawaii. As they expanded through the country and to the East Coast, their brand name became synonymous with good service and committed personnel. Despite expanding to a nationwide carrier and becoming one of the biggest airlines in America, AS has always kept their ‘hometown airline’ feel with a tight knit of employees and focus on customer service above all.
The merger with Virgin America was met with trepidation on both sides – one, the tech savvy young and hip airline with all the bells and whistles on their aircraft – the other a more traditional ‘legacy’ carrier with the hometown crowd. It seems as though the new merged Alaska is attempting to adopt the benefits of both carriers whilst retaining their own identity. AS 737s will never feature the hip and decked out interiors of the Virgin A320s – but moves like this one, making WiFi free and accessible to all sure helps the cause.
Upgrading the catering is another boon – Virgin was well known for their catering and the premium bent to it. Alaska is doing well to align their product with Virgin’s – albeit with a distinct bent towards their home territory to it.
All these developments are good points for current Alaska fliers, and will represent a nice ‘come over’ for current Virgin Velocity elites. Not only will they get most of the niceties of their Virgin America experience, but their network will expand vastly with Alaska (and Horizon Air) with many many more options to earn and redeem points on new routes.
The new Alaska is also reaching out to other elites from American, Delta and United – a status match program is in full swing, and new joiners also enjoy some added benefits such as 150% miles on most routes. Velocity fliers have already been incorporated into Alaska’s MVP (Most Valuable Passenger) and can now fully take advantage of the program.
And finally, perhaps in a reach out to their newly integrated brand, new Alaska 737s will be kitted out with pink and purple mood lighting. Who would have thought…a pink and purple Eskimo gracing the American skies…
How do you feel about these new moves? Are they enough for you to try out Alaska and perhaps give them a go for 2017? Would the status match pull you to the (not so) dark side?
Featured image credit: Alaska Airlines