Virgin America Announces Plan to Rebrand as Alitalia America

Alitalia, April Fools, Virgin America

This one certainly came out of left field, but I think it’s a great move. Virgin America announced today that it has decided to rebrand as Alitalia America on June 1. Further, Richard Branson will sell his 25 percent stake in the airline to Italian politician, businessman, and, uh, “playboy” Silvio Berlusconi. When this happens, David Cush will step down as CEO with a familiar face coming to take his place.

I love this move. After all, Virgin America has been losing money continuously since it started six years ago. Despite some revenue progress, it still can’t cover its costs. How do you fix that? Lower your costs. As you can imagine, the Alitalia brand is much cheaper to license than the Virgin brand. (If I were Alitalia, I’d pay anyone to take my brand off my hands.)

Alitalia America

Then again, there are going to be some cost increases in the short run as the airline transitions. Headquarters will move from San Francisco’s Bay Area to the North End of Boston. And of course, a new livery is coming. As you can see, it looks a lot like what Alitalia has painted on its airplanes today. But I’ll talk more about that later. First, let’s talk politics.

As part of this change, CEO David Cush will be getting the boot, and former CEO Fred Reid is back in his place. You remember this story, right? During the fitness test to see whether the airline was truly controlled by foreign interests or not, the DOT decided that Branson had hand-picked Fred to lead the company and Branson had too much influence in his decision-making. The DOT forced Fred out. Well, now that Branson is no longer involved, that’s not an issue.

I’ll give it to Fred for knowing the airline’s place. “When you think of Alitalia, you think of an airline that may not have its act together, may not make money, but it keeps fighting the good fight. That fits us perfectly.”

The airline has already announced some big changes to give it more of an Italian feel. Alitalia America is partnering with Ferrari to create new seat designs while new flight attendant uniforms will be created by Benetton. Coffee will now be from Illy, but this means some configuration changes on the airplane. Three seats will be removed on each aircraft to make room for an espresso machine. All mood lighting onboard will now be green and red instead of purple and red.

Onboard food changes have already begun. The Godfather Sandwich is a new item already on the menu, with more changes to follow. Despite the Italian influence, there will be a distinctly American flavor. Chef Boyardee products and Domino’s pizza will soon be on every flight.

We’re going to see more than just changes on the aircraft. In cities where both Alitalia and Alitalia America fly, they will consolidate terminals. That means in LA, Alitalia America will move to Terminal 2. In New York, Alitalia will move to Terminal 4.

Alitalia America will begin building up its presence in cities with large Italian populations. Look for Philly and the new hometown of Boston to see big increases while San Francisco faces large cuts. The airline will also begin flying to every airport in New Jersey.

To fall in line more with Alitalia’s business plan, Alitalia America will purposefully only sell two thirds of the seats on each airplane to give people room to stretch out. Four First Class seats will be sold in advance with another four being held until the date of departure. Those will only be available if Berlusconi doesn’t use them for himself and his companions. (Curtains will be installed to separate this from the rest of the cabin.)

The airline will also start canceling and delaying more flights. As you can imagine, this is only going to make losses grow at the airline in the short run. But management is confident that when people see how stylish it is to fly with Alitalia, they will start to pay double for their tickets.

The airline’s Elevate frequent flier plan will be renamed UnoMiglia and a reciprocal agreement with Alitalia’s MilleMiglia program will be introduced on June 1 when the official transition happens.

And a happy April Fools’ Day to all.

[Original Alitalia photo via lsantilli /]

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43 comments on “Virgin America Announces Plan to Rebrand as Alitalia America

  1. Almost had me there, I was going to do a response on how this must be a blow
    to Branson’s ego etc. and then I saw the April Fools posting and figured it out. :)

  2. Funny thing, I’m actually surprised that Alitalia has not tried to go the up-market/posh route considering Italy’s penchant for fashion and luxury. Now, like your joke implies, I’m not sure this is especially successful route to go but.

  3. Bummer.. I was looking forward to lots of snarky comments here about Alitalia America.. Though if they did rebrand which airline would be Cranky’s least favorite Alitalia or Alitalia America?

  4. I thought something was up when you talked about a merger between two of your favorite airlines. The North Boston headquarters was a really nice touch!

  5. AMR and US Airways are going to split themselves into their component airlines (America West, Piedmont, Allegheny, PSA, Air Cal, TWA and American) in an effort to refragment (is that a word?) the airline industry and bring back the old days of profitability. In the process, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Las Vegas will all be rehubbed.

    1. And the dual DAY and IND hubs….no way that could fail. Looking forward to seeing mainline metal 6x a day from FNT,SBN and GRR to the DAY fortress again.

  6. That was a lot of work for an April Fool’s day joke.

    Must have told the wife you couldn’t clean the bathroom and do laundry as you had a big indepth blog to write for Monday……lol

  7. Knowing what today was and seeing such an opportunity to pull chains accordingly, I’d say “well done”. I smiled all the way through. Thanks for the laugh. And a Happy April’s Fool Day to you!

  8. I saw on one Web site or another, I can’t remember which one:

    “Pope Marries.” I’m not sure if that is in reference to the current Pope or the one out of power.

    And then, there is the one about my local Washington Nats baseball team, about to take the field in Game 1: “Nationals clinch a spot in the World Series.”

    As I write, I’m looking for Alitalia America’s Web site. Something there about: “Only 3 seats left at that fare!”

    1. I’m really curious why more airlines don’t have an espresso machine of some variety onboard.. It probably has to do more with keeping the milk cold than the steaming equipment.. (Although a pressurized vessel of steam onboard an aircraft probably isn’t a good thing.)

      1. Espresso machines take skill to operate, or atleast operate well, and requires routine cleaning between every cup made, making it not impossible, but practically irrelevant for most airliners to do anything actually made on board.

        It is sad that considering its the flag airline of Italy, that Alitalia does not effectively communicate or provide a product of luxury or refinement.

      2. Since when do you use milk in an espresso machine ??? I guess you have more the lattes and cappucinos in mind, and those are not often offered onboard !
        Most europeans airlines have an espresso machine on their transatlantic routes, and i’ve often enjoyed one.

        1. Yeah, I do have lattes and cappuccinos in mind.. Thats my American mindset.

          Although I’m curious if Starbucks has kicked around putting a version of a Verismo machine onboard. Since there isn’t much skill required to operate that and it depends on an existing supply chain, I can see that flying.

  9. Bravo, Cranky! Hope you had as much fun writing this post as I did reading it. Happy April Fools’ Day to you too.

  10. Ahhh… but by the time that some of us in the world got to read this, it was way after the 12 noon cutoff for April Fools jokes :-)

    Although I have been caught out by April Fools jokes in the past, this one was so improbable that I knew it was a joke from the start.

    Adrian in New Zealand (GMT +13 – until next weekend, when we lose daylight saving time for our winter)

  11. Ah, yes. Hilarious! Kinda-mebbie saw this one coming, but your creative details are great fun. I’m thinking a wonderful day to NOT be flying.

  12. Wow, you certainly fooled me and I was wondering if someone at Virgin America had lost their mind? LOL – you’re a riot!

  13. This isn’t that funny. Not just because I am a VX employee…but it just isn’t really that funny. Sorry not sorry.

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