Alaska and Virgin America are still in the early stages of their merger, but the two airlines are already beginning to align their operations at certain airports. These changes have generally been made at smaller outstations in the AS/VX network and occur without much fanfare.
However, the latest in these operational changes is particularly interesting. Alaska announced today that they and Virgin America will be moving their operations at New York-JFK to the airport’s Terminal 7, occupied by a scattering of foreign airlines, though used mostly by British Airways (interestingly, neither Alaska nor Virgin occupied this terminal previously; Virgin was in Terminal 4 and Alaska was in Terminal 8).
Perhaps the most interesting part of this announcement was Alaska and Virgin’s decision to open a lounge at New York-JFK, which will open in early 2017. This will be Alaska’s first Board Room lounge outside the west coast (current locations are Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, and Anchorage). This new Board Room location is particularly surprising because neither Alaska nor Virgin America have a particularly large presence at JFK, and Alaska lacks lounges in some of their largest hubs or focus cities (San Francisco and my home town of San Diego are the best examples, both of which don’t have a Board Room but have very major Alaska/Virgin operations).
It will be interesting to see what Alaska/Virgin America’s plans for JFK are. The opening of a lounge would seem to indicate that Alaska is making a significant investment in JFK, despite their comparatively small current operation (Alaska themselves only operates one flight to the airport currently, SEA-JFK, with flights from Portland beginning in November). Is this an indication that they’re investing in their West Coast-New York product? It might be, but they’re not actually offering an improved onboard product on these flights so I don’t see what difference offering a lounge would make towards offering a more premium product on transcon flights. Regardless, I’m excited to see what the new lounge will look like, and how it will stack up to the other lounges in the Alaska system.