Alaska Airlines has completed the acquisition of Virgin America, the group announced today.
The merger combines the sixth and ninth largest airlines, to create the fifth-largest carrier of the United States and makes Alaska the biggest carrier on the West Coast.
Seattle-based Alaska Airlines announced its $2.6 billion deal in April after the merger agreement was signed by Virgin shareholders, reigniting the debate over airline consolidation. It gives Seattle-based Alaska a foothold in key airports in New York and Washington D.C., increasing the airline’s appeal to business travelers.
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.
The department said that these modifications will ensure that Alaska will have the incentive to compete with American as Virgin does today.
In its news release on Wednesday, Alaska wrote the merger 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 currently control 84 percent of the domestic market.
Alaska said the deal will add Virgin’s 200 daily departures to its existing 1,000 daily flights. The airline currently serves 112 destinations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
No decisions regarding the Virgin America brand have been made as of Wednesday. Virgin America will continue to fly under its brand with no immediate changes to the onboard product or experience.
The combined company will be led by Alaska Air Group CEO Tilden. Ben Minicucci will serve as chief executive officer of Virgin America in addition to his role as chief operating officer and president of Alaska Airlines.
In addition, Alaska Airlines has painted one of its 737-900ERs (N493AS) in a special livery for the successful merger (photos by Glenn Farley, @GlennFarleyK5 on twitter):