Alaska Air poised for West Coast dominance
NEW YORK Alaska Air Group Inc. is buying Virgin America in a deal worth US$2.6 billion, making Alaska the biggest carrier on the West Coast and reigniting the debate over airline consolidation.
The proposed merger also would give Seattle-based Alaska a foothold in airports in New York and Washington D.C., increasing its appeal to business travellers.
“Our goal is to be the premier airline for people along the West Coast,” Alaska CEO Brad Tilden told investors on a call Monday.
In Virgin’s hometown of San Francisco, for instance, Alaska flies only to Seattle. Following the merger, it also would fly from San Francisco to several key markets including New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, Boston, San Diego, Denver and Washington D.C.
The merger pushes Alaska ahead of JetBlue Airways, which had also bid for Virgin, to become the fifthlargest carrier in the U.S. based on passengers. The combined airline would control 5.5 per cent of domestic passengers, compared with New York-based JetBlue’s 4.2 per cent.
The four largest U.S. airlines — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines — controlled a combined 83 per cent of domestic seats in 2015, according to data from Diio, an airline-schedule tracking service.