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Alaska Airlines: Goodbye 'Virgin America,' hello comfier flights

The beloved airline name is being shuttered in 2019.
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Alaska Airlines

Virgin America has been the airline of choice for many travelers due to its on-board amenities, including comfy seating, mood lighting, Netflix and Spotify. However, the name won't be around much longer. Alaska Airlines, which bought the airline last year, announced this week that it plans "to retire" the Virgin America name and logo "likely sometime in 2019." As you can imagine, many were upset the beloved brand was being shuttered, including Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson.

"It has a very different business model and sadly, it could not find a way to maintain its own brand and that of Virgin America," Branson said.

Alaska Airlines says a number of the things that made Virgin America so great in the eyes of travelers won't go away -- namely its dedication to stellar customer service. The company was also quick to reveal changes coming to the in-flight experience as a way of softening the blow that the go-to airline for many will no longer be around. And yes, there will be mood lighting.

Next year, Alaska Airlines says it will debut a redesigned cabin complete with new seats and more. In the fall of 2018, all of the company's Boeing aircraft will be retrofitted with high-speed satellite WiFi to improve internet during flights. The same upgrade will be applied to Alaska Airlines' Airbus fleet afterwards with all planes expected to be equipped with faster WiFi by the end of 2019. The airline says you can expect to stream movies and shows from your service of choice when the upgrade to more reliable connectivity is complete.

The airline already offers a catalog of over 200 movies and TV shows directly to passenger devices free of charge. That in-flight entertainment option is now permanently available on Alaska Airlines' Boeing fleet and it arrives on the Airbus aircraft this August. If you're flying on an Airbus plane, you'll still be able to purchase new releases. If you don't mind handing over a few dollars, of course.

Alaska says it was the first and only airline to offer free in-flight chat when it did so in January. The amenity allows passengers to stay in contact with folks on the ground with apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and iMessage. This August, that free chatting will also be available on Airbus flights.

While Virgin America may be going away in a few months, it's clear Alaska Airlines is focused on improving the air travel experience to keep faithful customers happy. More premium seats, faster WiFi and easy-to-access entertainment options are a start, but it will be interesting to see if the company takes on more of the Virgin persona after the brand is officially "retired."

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