Here we go again. What is it with all the airline mergers and acquisitions here in the US over the past 15 years or so? In that relatively short period of time, the number of airlines in this country has shrunk significantly leaving the consumer with fewer choices and more expensive fares. The smaller niche carriers are slowly being picked off one by one by the larger airlines, leaving little opportunity for innovation and new ideas in this industry (something that the little guys did so well). For an airline and aviation enthusiast like myself, the increasing lack of variety and choice has been notably disappointing.
The latest airline merger here in the US was just announced yesterday. It’s more of an acquisition really, with Alaska Airlines purchasing Virgin America outright for a whopping $2.5 billion. That’s a “b” for “billion”, and quite frankly, I find that to be a bit on the insane side of the scale. I’ve actually got a lot I want to say about that, but I’ll save my comments for a separate post since the topic of this one is paying tribute to Virgin America service in San Diego.
Virgin America launched service to San Diego in 2007, with two daily flights to San Francisco. Hardly a robust schedule to compete with the likes of Southwest and United, but nonetheless, the added competition and fresh (hip) product offering was a welcome thing to see. It unfortunately took me 7 years to give them a try for myself, mostly since I was a frequent flyer points and mileage addict and the thought of flying an airline I had no status on was horrifying. The switchover to revenue-based frequent flyer programs of the legacy airlines was enough for me to stop playing that game by 2104, so my “free agent” status made it easy to choose Virgin America for a quick weekend jaunt up to San Francisco. It was a great trip!
I’ve also had the opportunity to photograph a lot of Virgin America airplanes over the years here in San Diego, and as a way of paying tribute to this great airline, I thought it would be fun to put together a quick collection of some of my best photos of those beautiful red and white Airbuses:
Virgin America is an airline I’m going to miss quite a bit. They are the only airline in the US who places heavy value on style and design, while at the same time offering a fun and refreshing product in all three classes of service. The good news is that airline mergers and acquisitions like this take years to complete, so that will give me a chance to take at least one more trip with them before too much of the Alaska Airlines influence starts to take hold. At the time of this writing, I’m just about to purchase an itinerary with them that will allow me to try and review all classes of service for a quick trip based out of San Diego. I’ve already tried their first class product with those stylish all-white leather recliner seats, but I’m curious to see what their economy and premium economy seats are like as well. Stay tuned for that trip report!