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Virgin America Flies Its Final Flight

Goodbye, Virgin America.

The last Virgin America flights operated on April 24, departing San Francisco at 9:30 p.m. Two years after being bought for $2.6 billion, the airline is officially incorporated into Alaska Airlines.

But you might not notice its absence at all, at least according to the travel blogosphere: Alaska took a good look at the problems generated by prior airline mergers, and has made sure that the Virgin America reservations systems has worked smoothly with its own. It seems there will be no surprises.

But that’s in the short term. Overall, the newly expanded Alaska Airlines system is facing something of an identity crisis, especially on former Virgin America routes. Alaska has apparently decided not to emulate the Big Three airlines (plus JetBlue) in offering a true premium option on transcontinental routes. It has, however, decided to offer seat-only “basic” fares starting sometime this fall.

The Big Three airlines—especially Delta—are steadily moving onto Alaska’s West Coast turf. It’s anyone’s guess how Alaska Airlines will accommodate this increasingly competitive environment, but you may well see some surprises from them within the next year or so.

The good news? If you’re flying on Alaska or a Virgin America-booked ticket over the next few days, you can expect a no-surprises transition.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

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