For some Americans, Virgin Airlines may be best known for the eccentric behavior of its CEO, Richard Branson. However, what a lot of people don’t know is that Virgin America, the company’s U.S. branch, is a really, really good airline, with the Airline Quality Rating has ranking it as America’s best for four years straight.
All of this may soon change though, as it was announced earlier this week that Alaska Airlines bought out Virgin America for a smooth $4 billion. Alaska Airlines, which actually services destinations across North America and not just to Alaska, purchased the company after an intense but short-lived bidding war with JetBlue.
Alaska Airlines isn’t too shabby itself — the company was ranked fifth overall in the 2015 Airline Quality Rating — but it’s the style and flair of Virgin America that may get lost in the buyout. Between the mood lighting, strangely awesome in-flight safety videos or leather cabin seats, Virgin has a built a reputation on its luxury and hipness.
It doesn’t seem like Branson is too happy with the idea of Virgin’s brand disappearing either. “I would be lying if I didn’t admit sadness that our wonderful airline is merging with another,” the CEO wrote in a post on Virgin’s site Monday. Later in the post, Branson went on to say that, “The important thing now is to ensure that once Alaska [Airlines] witnesses first-hand the power of the brand and the love of Virgin America customers for our product and guest experience.
However, whether or not Alaska Airlines decides to completely change Virgin’s in-flight experience remains to be seen. The company has promised to look and see if there is a way to retain elements of the Virgin brand now that the airline has been bought out.
Provided that the deal goes through, it would certainly help Alaska start to compete with some of the larger, more national airlines that dominate most American air travel. In the meantime, enjoy that mood lighting while you still can.
Dillon Thompson is a travel intern with Paste and a student at the University of Georgia.