Lots of frequent fliers (especially West Coast ones) are going through a range of emotions in the wake of the news that Alaska Airlines is buying Virgin America in a $2.6 billion deal. Virgin America customers tend to be fiercely loyal to their little airline, which is known for its quirky staff, great customer service, and club-like aircraft design, so any buyout — even by an airline with as good of a reputation among flyers as Alaska — is met with some trepidation.
That seems to include Virgin mogul Richard Branson, who has published a lengthy letter about the deal on his company's site. He describes how the airline came to be with the goal of "making flying good again," lamenting that "consolidation is a trend that sadly cannot be stopped." He goes on to note that it was Virgin America's board that accepted Alaska's advances, seeming to distance himself from the deal.
That distancing continues later in the letter:
"I would be lying if I didn't admit sadness that our wonderful airline is merging with another. Because I'm not American, the US Department of Transportation stipulated I take some of my shares in Virgin America as non-voting shares, reducing my influence over any takeover. So there was sadly nothing I could do to stop it."
He closes with some hopeful optimism that Virgin will keep doing good work at Alaska, but the winds of change are already blowing: Alaska has said today that it could pare down to a single aircraft type as Virgin's equipment leases begin to expire in 2020.
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