Alaska Airlines received a single operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last week for Alaska Airlines and Virgin America, marking another significant milestone in the integration of the two airlines.
The receipt of a single operating certificate will not result in any immediate differences for guests when flying with Alaska or Virgin America. For now, guests will still use respective Alaska and Virgin America mobile apps, websites and airport terminals when traveling. But when Alaska and Virgin America move to a single reservations system in late April 2018, guests can expect a more streamlined travel experience, with the Alaska mobile app and website serving their travel needs.
"This is a big moment for our company. We're now recognized as a one airline in the eyes of the FAA," said Ben Minicucci, Alaska Airlines' president and chief operating officer and CEO of Virgin America. "I want to congratulate and thank the teams at Alaska and Virgin America for their tireless work to get this done on time, including Gary Beck, the executive sponsor who led this project from the beginning. The CAVOK Group was also instrumental with this massive effort. And we greatly appreciate the assistance of the FAA, the Department of Transportation and other agencies as we accomplished this major milestone."
Alaska closed its purchase of Virgin America in December 2016. Since then, a tremendous amount of work and planning has been done to align the operating policies and procedures of the two carriers, which is part of the thorough regulatory requirements established by the FAA to achieve a single operating certificate.
More than 110 employees from both airlines worked to obtain the single operating certificate. They logged approximately 70,000 hours; reviewed 346 different operational topics across 136 manuals; analyzed more than 39,000 pages of material; and instituted roughly 1,500 changes to policies and procedures throughout 68 various manuals. More than 10,500 frontline employees have been trained on the updated policies and procedures. As part of the single operating certificate approval process, Virgin America flight attendants were issued iPhones for their work duties, matching their Alaska counterparts; Virgin America pilots are now going through a validation period to receive iPads, similar to Alaska's pilots.
There has been a steady flow of accomplishments on integration. Among them, as of Jan. 1, the Virgin America loyalty program integrated with Alaska Mileage Plan, and the company transitioned to a single payroll and benefits program. The single operating certificate allows Alaska to continue integration work that can only be achieved with the certification. An additional milestone will be reached in March when an Airbus operations control center will be co-located with one for Boeing aircraft at Alaska's Flight Operations Center in Seattle.
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