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Travel Tip: When Airlines Merge & Change Brand Identity

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14311446_10154667960739411_8562742892786087753_oMany of you may have read the news that Alaska Airlines bought Virgin America last year.

These are two great (but very different) airlines, with different route structures and different cultures—and two very loyal sets of passengers.

Now, Alaska Airlines has announced that the Virgin America name will disappear. That’s a shame.

In the airline business, or any business, companies work hard to define, build, and maintain their brands and brand loyalty.

Take the case of Pan Am and Delta Air Lines.

Back in 1991, when Delta took over many of the legacy Pan Am routes in Europe, it made a similar decision to end the Pan Am name and brand. It was a huge mistake.

Few in Europe knew the Delta name or trusted it.

Within months, so few people were flying Delta on the old Pan Am routes that Delta had to drop most of the service entirely.

There’s a lesson there for Alaska Airlines.

Virgin America passengers are as brand loyal as Pan Am’s were in Europe.

It will be interesting to see how many of Virgin America’s routes will survive after the name is retired.

For more information about how mergers affect travelers, check out:

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