Hawaii Specialists React to Potential Virgin America Buyout

hawaiiTravel Agent recently chatted with some Hawaii specialists about the impact of a possible Virgin America buyout.

In early February, Virgin America announced it would expand its service to Hawaii with daily nonstop flights from Los Angeles International Airport to Honolulu, Oahu on May 5, and Kahului, Maui on June 14. The airline also recently launched daily service from San Francisco International Airport to Honolulu and Maui.

The rumored buyout of Virgin America took another step forward Monday with news that JetBlue Airways Corp and Alaska Air Group have launched takeover bids for the airline, Reuters reports. 

"If the sale goes through, I hope it is bought by JetBlue," says Lena Brown of Largay Travel in Waterbury, CT. "My clients enjoy what JetBlue has to offer now, even though the flight options are limited. By buying Virgin that would be a welcome solution for the lack of flight patterns on JetBlue for West Coast travel."

Late last week Bloomberg reported that British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson was considering selling the airline. 

"If the merger happens, Alaska Airlines will finally get flights to Hawaii out of San Francisco and will have full West Coast coverage, with non-stops to most of the Hawaiian islands from Seattle all the way down to San Diego," says Andrey Zakharenko of Always Travel in San Francisco

According to analysts cited by Reuters, a deal would boost the airline's footprint and help it compete against the big three U.S. airlines -- American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines -- who have seen significant gains from industry consolidation. 

"I would love to see this buyout happen," says Ryan Mielke of Regency Travel in Fort Lauderdale, FL. "The trends of the airline industry seem to be dictated by the big three. If you’re able to throw in another airline (a relatively new airline by industry standards), we might get a shakeup in future trends. Virgin America and JetBlue have done great jobs marketing to the Millennial clientele. If one of those airlines can climb the ranks then maybe those voices will be heard louder and we could see some things changing for the better like less ancillary fees, free Wi-Fi, etc."

Additionally, a potential buyer would benefit from Virgin America's accounts with big tech companies like Facebook and Google, and JetBlue, in particular, would expand its presence on the West Coast. 

According to the Reuters report, analysts said a deal could make sense particularly for New York-based JetBlue, which has room to grow on the U.S. West Coast. Both carriers fly the same type of aircraft, which means JetBlue would not need to train pilots or maintenance crew on how to operate Virgin America's planes.

"Virgin and Alaska together have a strong route presence on the West coast and JetBlue covers all of the important routes on the East Coast," says Zakharenko. "Combined, they will fly to most places both corporate and leisure (travelers) go to frequently, giving their loyal customers more choice and less reasons to fly with their competitors."

Read the Reuters story here, and keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for further updates on this developing story. Be sure to follow Travel Agent's Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike.