What to Know Now

The Department of Justice finally signed off on Alaska Air Group’s acquisition of Virgin America — almost two months behind the original plan — and all of the legalities are getting buttoned up. Once the deal closes, which should happen imminently, Virgin America will quickly disappear into the larger carrier, though travelers still don’t know what the ultimate flight experience will look like.

Many are hopeful that facets of the current Virgin America experience, including the fun cabin lighting and industry-leading in-flight entertainment, will persist through the acquisition. A more realistic scenario, however, has all of Virgin America’s aircraft eventually adopting the Alaska branding and cabins.

More news on the ultimate fate of the carriers is expected this month. In the meantime, get those last Virgin America flights in.

Social Quote of the Day

Whenever I feel discouraged, I remember the words of my then-3 yr old after she puked carrots on the floor: “I’m gonna need more carrots.”

@jessicavalenti | Jessica Valenti, Feminist Author, GuardianUS Columnist

Airlines

After Mistake, Southwest Will Resume Suspended Flights to Mexico: Southwest Airlines is hoping to resume recently suspended flights between Los Angeles and three resort cities in Mexico beginning Sunday. The airline had cancelled all its flights from Los Angeles International Airport to Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, and Cancun since Wednesday because all the necessary paperwork hadn’t been completed. Read more at Skift

In-Flight Calling: DOT Considers Passing New Rules: Should U.S. airlines allow passengers to make phone calls at 35,000 feet? And if they do, what rules should they follow to ensure all travelers have a reasonably peaceful journey? Read more at Skift

Delta to Improve Free Snacks in Economy: As of Wednesday, December 14, Delta Air Lines branded peanuts and pretzels will be replaced by brand-name products. Read more at Airways Magazine

Significance of Norwegian Air’s Recent DOT Victory Is Overstated: On Monday, three days after the U.S. government cleared the airline’s Irish subsidiary to fly to the United States, Norwegian Air Shuttle announced a slew of new flights between the UK and several U.S. cities. It might be easy to tie the two matters together, but as with most things the company has done, it’s not that simple. Read more at Skift

Airports

President-Elect Trump Picks a Retired Marine to Manage U.S. Borders and the TSA: Trump has tapped retired Marine Gen. John Kelly as DHS secretary, according to published reports. A four-star general, like prospective defense secretary James Mattis, Kelly’s most recent assignment, which ended in February, was heading the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Read more at Skift

The Airport of Tomorrow: Putting the Passenger at the Heart of the Experience: Airports have undergone massive evolution over the past decade. No longer simply transit points, airports are unique microcosms of the modern travel experience. Read more at Skift

United Opens First Polaris Lounge as Part of Its Business Class Overhaul: United Airlines opened the first of its Polaris airport lounges in Chicago’s O’Hare airport last week. Read more at Skift

Tech

Autonomous Transportation and the Future of Business Travel: What does a world look like where, instead of going to the airport two hours early, taking an hour flight, and then a commute into a city center, one just gets in a vehicle and works — or sleeps — en route to the destination? Read more at Skift

The Most Viewed Travel YouTube Videos of 2016: Aside from its upcoming IPO, Trivago has stolen the spotlight with its TV commercials and videos during the past year that have garnered millions of views both on and offline, and are some of the most viewed travel videos on the web. Read more at Skift

Travel-Focused Consumers Win in Amex and Chase’s Battle for Credit Card Supremacy: To attract the most profitable customers, banks are competing to offer the most irresistible perks, especially through premium cards such as the AmEx Platinum, Citibank’s Prestige card, and the new Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which created a frenzy online when it launched in August. Read more at Skift

Hotels

HNA Closes Its Acquisition of Carlson Hotels: Eight months after announcing its intent to acquire Minnetonka, Minn.-based Carlson Hotels, China’s HNA Tourism Group has closed the deal, buying all of Carlson Hotels, and also acquiring Carlson’s 51.3-percent stake in Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel Group. Read more at Skift

This Is What Next Year Will Be Like for the U.S. Hotel Industry: In 2016, the global hotel industry contended with plenty of changes: Consolidations continued. Disruptors got more disruptive. Throughout it all, one perennial question from everyone in the hotel industry, it seemed, was: “Where are we in the cycle?” Here’s our prediction: We’re still going to be asking that well into 2017, too. Regardless of exactly where we are in that cycle, it’s safe to say that next year will continue to be a year of changes, big and small, for the hotel industry. Read more at Skift

AccorHotels Expands Luxury Footprint With Stake In Banyan Tree: AccorHotels’ year of deals has continued with the planned acquisition of a five percent stake in Singapore-based luxury hotel operator Banyan Tree Holdings. Read more at Skift

Washington, D.C. Has a Huge MGM Casino Opening Right Next Door: Far from the Las Vegas Strip, MGM Resorts International opens its $1.4 billion MGM National Harbor casino and resort just outside the nation’s capital this week, advertising a gambling floor “bigger than the White House” and an art collection that includes a large welded collage by Bob Dylan. Read more at Skift

Your Turn

Tony Perrottet has a new piece on overtourism — a concept often explored by the Skift team — over in The New York Times this weekend. Find it here.

Tips and Comments

Can be sent to gm[at]skift[dot]com or to @grantkmartin

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Photo Credit: Virgin America's First Class seating. The airline's acquisition by Alaska Air just cleared a major roadblock. Virgin America