Virgin America Airlines will soon be taken over by US-based Alaska Airlines. As part of the acquisition, the Virgin America brand will eventually disappear, being absorbed into the Alaska Airlines brand.
As was the case with the American Airlines/US Airways merger, the process will be a lengthy one. Both airlines promise that there will be no immediate changes to flights, nor to the airlines’ frequent flyer programs in the short term.
In the long term, however, the Virgin America Elevate program will become a part of the Alaskan Mileage Plan loyalty program. This means that, eventually, Elevate points will be converted to Alaskan miles. However, the two programs are very different. For example, Alaska Airlines redemption rates are zone-based. Virgin America redemptions are priced according to the ticket price on Virgin America’s own flights, and the flight’s distance on partner airline flights.
Some members also consider Virgin America Elevate points to be more valuable than Alaskan miles. Within Australia, for example, a Business class redemption would cost 40,000 Alaskan miles for a round-trip. However, an identical redemption using Virgin America miles costs between 10,000 and 27,000 points, depending on the distance of the flight. It will therefore be interesting to see how the programs are merged.
According to the press release, Virgin America Elevate will eventually become part of the Alaskan Mileage Plan program. I wonder what will happen to members’ Elevate miles? Alaskan miles are valuable, but I would consider Elevate miles to be considerably more so.
Neither Virgin America nor Alaska Airlines are members of a global airline alliance, however both airlines currently have extensive partnerships with other airlines. Alaska Airlines boasts a close relationship with Qantas, as well as Emirates, American Airlines and Delta. Meanwhile, Virgin America partners with a host of other airlines, including Virgin Australia. This has led to some speculation about possible changes to the Qantas and Virgin Australia partner airline networks following the merger. If there were no changes, the new Alaska Airlines would be a partner of both Qantas and Virgin Australia.
That would be disappointing if they took away the VA/VX partnership. Just sounds wrong flying VIRGIN metal but getting points/SC with Qantas/Oneworld!
This would potentially present some interesting opportunities for Australian flyers, however it is too early to know exactly what the merger will bring.
The new Alaskan outfit would not be the first common partner airline of the two major Australian carriers. German airline Airberlin is a partner of Virgin Australia, as well as Qantas through the oneworld alliance. Members of the Airberlin Topbonus frequent flyer program can enjoy benefits on both Qantas and Virgin Australia. However, Virgin Velocity status credits are not earned when flying Airberlin, and vice versa.
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