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Why Alaska Airlines is killing Virgin America

Virgin America and Alaska Airlines jet tails
Alaska Airlines will retire the Virgin America brand and logo by the end of 2019. (Alaska Air Photo)

It all comes down to cost and consistency of branding: That’s why Alaska Airlines announced today that it would retire the Virgin America name for the airline it acquired last year.

Seattle-based Alaska Air Group completed the $4 billion transaction (including debt and lease payments) to take over Virgin America’s operation and its routes late last year – but the question of what to do with the operation’s name had been hanging over the acquisition since it was announced last April.

“We spent the last 10 months conducting extensive research and listening carefully to what fliers on the West Coast want most,” Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of marketing, said in today’s announcement. “While the Virgin America name is beloved to many, we concluded that to be successful on the West Coast we had to do so under one name – for consistency and efficiency, and to allow us to continue to deliver low fares.”

Alaska said the Virgin America name and logo would be retired “likely sometime in 2019.” Alaska has to wait at least long enough to win certification from the Federal Aviation Administration for the two airlines to operate as a single carrier.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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