Alaska Airlines is killing off Virgin America and Richard Branson says it’s okay to cry

Alaska Airlines has announced they are killing off the Virgin America brand sometime in 2019.

Sad? Angry? You’re not alone.

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin America, just penned a love letter saying “tears were shed today” and memorializing all the great things Virgin America had accomplished before the merger.

In a blog post announcing the decision, Alaska took four paragraphs of rambling before gathering the courage to announce the bad news. Specifically the airline said they’ve “made the difficult decision to retire the Virgin America name and logo likely sometime in 2019”.

Alaska bought the Virgin America brand last year for $2.6B, making the combined entity the fifth-largest airline by traffic.

While Alaska has a loyal customer base (mainly��in the Pacific Northwest), they definitely aren’t as loved as Virgin America, which has been ranked the best domestic airline for the last eight years.

So it makes basically zero sense why Alaska would shell out cash (and raise $2B in financing) to buy the most popular airline then decide to kill it off the brand in a few years.

Alaska said they’re planning on incorporating the best parts of Virgin into a new refreshed fleet starting in 2019. But part of what made Virgin so loved was its customer service-focused culture, which is something no amount of new “expressive blue mood lighting” will help recreate.

To give them credit, Alaska also says they’ll add faster satellite WiFi and refreshed seats, which will help ease the transition.

While we’ll try to keep an open mind, it’s usually not a good sign when companies think they can slap some mood lights on something and recreate a culture that’s unique from any other company in their industry.