Markets

Alaska Air Group closes acquisition of Virgin America

The combined airlines vaulted Alaska Air Group from No. 6 to No. 5 on the list of US carriers - past JetBlue, which had courted Virgin America as well.

The definitive merger agreement, which was signed in April and approved by Virgin America shareholders in July, brings together two of the country's favorite airlines into a unified force that will provide an attractive alternative to the "Big 4" airlines that now control 84 percent of the domestic market.

As it stands, Alaska Airlines and Virgin America will spend the next year working to secure Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification to allow the two airlines to operate as a single carrier. However, no decision has been made about whether the Virgin America brand, which is flashier that its Alaska counterpart, will be retained. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines control 84% of the US market.

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Alaska Air said that with the acquisition, it had almost 1,200 daily flights to 118 destinations. The combined fleet comprises 286 aircraft, including more than 150 mainline Alaska Boeing 737s and more than 60 Virgin America Airbus A320 family aircraft.

Starting Monday, customers can purchase Virgin America tickets at Alaskaair.com. Passengers on both airlines will also be able to begin earning rewards on each other's flights. In addition, elite-status loyalty members of both airlines will receive priority check-in and boarding on each company's flights.

The Department of Justice cleared Alaska's acquisition last week, but it announced Alaska would be required to significantly reduce the scope of its codeshare agreement with American Airline - the world's largest airline - in order for Alaska to complete the deal.

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We have intelligence agencies that we worked with that are willing to sort this out". We want to protect American interests.

"We appreciate that there is great interest in the future of the Virgin America brand among customers and employees alike", Tilden said.

Alaska Air also announced Wednesday that it will launch new daily flights to Orlando, Minneapolis and Orange County, California from its hub in San Francisco beginning this upcoming summer. Soon Virgin America customers will have access to a route network that offers six times more daily flights than before. Schedule and availability are to be announced on December 21.

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