Image: Alaska Airlines

APEX Insight: Alaska Airlines is now the fifth-largest airline in the US, having completed its merger with Virgin America. While the two airline brands differ, they’re setting out to prove that different works.

Alaska Airlines announced yesterday that it has closed its acquisition of Virgin America. “Like bacon on a donut, electricity and guitars, or Labradors and poodles, we’re an odd couple that works well together,” reads the microsite that was launched to promote the merger.

“Alaska Airlines and Virgin America are different airlines, but we believe different works — and we’re confident flyers will agree,” said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Air Group, in a press release. “Together, we’ll offer more flights, with low fares, more rewards and more for customers to love, as we continue to offer a distinctive travel experience. The two airlines may look different, but our core customer and employee focus is very much the same.” Alaska will now boast more nonstop destinations served from the West Coast than any airline, with hubs in Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. This means more – and more frequent – links to tech-innovation hotspots of LA, the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle-Redmond.

Alaska Airlines and Virgin America will now work to secure FAA certification to operate as a single carrier, a process which they expect to complete in early 2018. Starting December 19, Virgin America Elevate members and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members can earn rewards on both airlines, while elite members will receive priority check-in and priority boarding on both airlines as well. On January 9, Virgin America Elevate members will be able to activate new Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan accounts. “We plan to make this the most customer-friendly merger ever,” said Tilden, “and we will have much more to announce over the coming weeks.”

Tilden will serve as CEO of the combined company, with Alaska Airlines president and COO Ben Minicucci also serving as CEO of Virgin America. Virgin America will continue to fly under its own brand until Alaska Air Group can get deeper insight into what its passengers want. Meanwhile, Horizon Air, also owned by Alaska Air Group and based in Seattle, will retain its own separate operating certificate.

“This partnership is positive for California air travel consumers and demonstrates an investment in our state,” said Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor of California in a press release. “Both airlines boast a strong history, and we look forward to seeing their innovative spirit magnified with their global international network of partner airlines.”

So just as the Labrador and the poodle became the Labradoodle, Alaska Air and Virgin America hope to bring their passengers something new and delightful in their joining of forces. In celebration of the merger, the two airlines are running a contest, giving away 1,200 pairs of free tickets. US residents can enter to win a trip to one of over 100 destinations with the travel companion of your choice.

Jordan juggles deadlines across various time zones as he writes about travel, culture, entertainment, and technology.