I suppose I should start off by saying that I am a true Alaska Airlines fan. While there are lots of practical reasons for this -- I live in Seattle where Alaska offers direct flights to nearly all of its destinations -- what I feel most drawn to is the culture of Alaska Airlines. This company has cultivated an incredible society of people who are proud of their work and are united in their cause of providing a great experience to travelers.
I fly Alaska six times a month or more, and it is my default airline. I have racked up hundreds of thousands of miles, and have gotten to know some of the flight crews due to that frequency. I also have a good friend, Bill Fisher, who hosts Alaska cultural events, bringing together the Seattle-based staff and families to enjoy musical and theatrical performances. Bill has invited Maran and me to join for some of those events, and we have seen the Alaska family as warm and connected. The pride I see in those employees is the pride my father felt as an American Airlines pilot from 1960 to 1992. He flew during the golden era and its long tail following deregulation. And he was largely spared from the current reality among the big three carriers (I exclude Southwest as being different from the others), which is a career where few are proud of what they do or the airline with which they fly.
But when i do fly on an airline that is proud of what they do, it stands out. On that list I would include Lufthansa and Emirates, along with some of the national Asian carriers, though I'm concerned that is also eroding. And on that list I include Alaska, and to a lesser degree, Virgin America. When I first began flying Virgin up and down the coast in the early days of Banyan Branch, I loved it. The crew felt they were special, planes were different (though one might say they were a "forced cool"), and the whole feel of the experience was one that felt purposeful. I enjoyed my conversations with everyone from ticketing to gate to flight crew, and it exemplified what air travel should be: special.
So while there are many reasons why this merger shouldn't work (Alaska's well honed 737 fleet merging with the Virgin Airbus fleet as the big one in my mind), I'm hoping that these two unique and special cultures can merge and be better together.