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Looking at the integration since the merger closes, Alaska Airlines and Virgin America have been nothing but successful. After the takeover of Virgin by Alaska late last year, the companies have made an earnest effort in integrating. This seems to have started with their Frequent Flyer programs. First, you could transfer your Virgin points to Alaska miles at a ratio of 1 to 1.3. Next, Alaska started adding Virgin America to its mileage program, allowing you to redeem your Alaska Miles on Virgin flights.
This redemption has added a great option since Virgin does fixed-price reward pricing which can make redemption much more economical. In addition to the economies of redemptions, Virgin has one other advantage: the hard product on Virgin America is much better than many other carriers. This is especially true of Virgin’s first class product, which in addition to being better has a more generous award space availability.
Unlike Alaska which has an award system that is tiered depending on the distance traveled, Virgin only has two categories. The first is within the state regardless of the distance traveled; the second is interstate which covers costs between states. Again, there is no price distinction whether you are flying to the state next door or if you are flying across the country.
When it comes to Hawaii, like most airlines, Virgin has a separate award price structure. The structure is relatively competitive, especially in the Premium cabin.
The final destination to which Virgin America flies is Mexico, and although the pricing chart is similarly priced to other airlines, it can be more competitive than others depending on the distance traveled.
Virgin America First Class
One area where Virgin America has the edge over its domestic rivals is the Premium cabin. The product is typically much better, with bigger seats in domestic First class, excellent legroom since the chairs have a pitch of 55” inches, and the fact that any flights longer than two hours get a complimentary meal.
The main drawback to Virgin America is on transcontinental flights, since it lacks fully lie-flat seats, while the big three legacy carriers in the US all have fully lie-flat beds on transcontinental flights. Although it must be noted that even transcon flights are not long enough to have a full night's rest like you'd get on many intercontinental flights.
Award Space Availability
This is where Virgin America comes in big time. Unlike American, Delta and United who have restrictive award space availability, there is plenty of Premium cabin award space open on Virgin America. Looking through the availability of award space, there is plenty of space available in February and plenty in August for flights between Los Angeles and New York. There is similar generous availability on flights from Chicago to Los Angeles next month and in September. Regarding award space availability to Hawaii, there is plenty of space available in May.
The ability to redeem Alaska miles on Virgin America flights is an excellent opportunity since even though the prices may not be more economical all the time, there are some good opportunities for saver rate redemptions. Also, Virgin offers an excellent product on its Premium cabins, which is better than most other legacy carriers.
Source: MileValue/Sarah Page Maxwell
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