WHAT TO KNOW NOW

The puzzle pieces are all starting to come together for Alaska Air Group and Virgin America. Last week the two carriers finalized their union, launched DifferentWorks, a merger landing page, and unveiled a custom 737 with joint branding before a packed event at SFO.

Like in the Marriott-Starwood merger, the carriers’ first move was to sync rewards programs and retain loyalty. Starting today, members of Elevate and Mileage Plan can earn miles on Alaska and Virgin America respectively; next year, that relationship will expand to award tickets, while the carriers also just announced a conversion ratio when transferring points across accounts.

The carriers are still mum on what the joint product will look like, but according to Skift’s Brian Sumers, those changes may come slowly. In the meantime, enjoy those fancy cabins and in-flight entertainment.

SOCIAL QUOTE OF THE DAY

The Alaska “More to Love” plane sat grounded with new livery for a month+. Yet it still has the old seat configuration. ? #DifferentWorks

– @single_flyer | Alan, non-affiliate blogger with a focus on traveling solo.

AIRLINES

Take Monarch Air’s Profit Predication With a Pinch of Salt: UK airline group Monarch, which came close to going out of business once again this year, has said that it expects to report an annual profit of $60 million (£48 million). Even though this is 35 percent down on the previous year, given the torrid time it has had, it is pretty good. The only problem is the metric it chose to report these profits in was EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization). Read more at Skift

Gulf Airlines Cut Back Expansion Plans as Europe Loses Its Shine: Gulf airlines will slow capacity growth on European routes to the lowest level in more than a decade as stuttering economies, an ailing oil industry, and concerns about terrorism depress demand in one of the travel sector’s most hotly contested markets. Read more at Skift

Lufthansa Will Finally Complete Its Acquisition of Brussels Airlines: Lufthansa says it will buy the remaining 55 percent stake in Brussels Airlines it doesn’t already own, and integrate the Belgian carrier into its Eurowings subsidiary. Read more at Skift

JetBlue Hopes Passengers Won’t Notice Its New Focus Cutting Costs: Over the past three years, JetBlue Airways has introduced several new features, including its new Mint business class, in the hopes it could please investors by increasing revenues to more closely match standards set by other, larger airlines. Read more at Skift

AIRPORTS

British Airways’ Cabin Crew Strike Could Impact Holiday Travel Plans: British Airways flight attendants voted to take industrial action over the Christmas and New Year travel season, threatening what would be the carrier’s first major walkout in six years. Read more at Skift

Heathrow Offers Homeowners Cash in a Bid to Speed Up Runway Build: Heathrow Airport Ltd. will offer hundreds of homeowners a 1,000-pound ($1,200) festive sweetener to participate in environmental studies vital to expediting planning for its controversial 16 billion-pound third runway. Read more at Skift

Dubai Plans to Spend Big While Making Its Second Airport the World’s Largest: Dubai aims to spend $35.7 billion to develop its second airport and logistics hub in the south of the city and is likely to rely on debt for a significant part of the financing. Read more at Skift

New York LaGuardia Is North America’s Least Favorite Airport: America’s most-hated big-city airport is New York LaGuardia — and it’s not even close. Read more at Skift

TECH

Wynn Las Vegas Bets Big on Amazon Echo and Voice-Activated Rooms: Steve Wynn, chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, as well as the highest paid hotel CEO of 2015, is making a huge bet that guests will want to control their hotel rooms with the help of the Amazon Echo, an artificial intelligence-powered smart speaker. Read more at Skift

Contrarian Flight App Hopper Attracts $61 Million in Series C Financing: Consider the $61 million bet that investors have made this year in app-only flight-booker Hopper, a nine-year-old “startup” that appears to be finally finding its footing. Read more at Skift

More Hotels Are Planning to Use Location-Based Services to Interact With Guests: Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of all hotels and resorts in a recent survey said they plan to implement location-based technologies within the next year, similar to how Hilton and Marriott have done so previously. Read more at Skift

HOTELS

La Quinta’s New Loyalty Play Foreshadows a Major Relaunch in 2017: La Quinta Inns & Suites will be relaunching its La Quinta Returns loyalty program in early 2017, CEO Keith Cline told Skift. And as a precursor to that relaunch, the hotel company added a brand-new feature: the ability for members to redeem their La Quinta loyalty points for everyday purchases on things like groceries, restaurants, or even coffee. Read more at Skift

What Hotel CMOs Need to Know About Google, Metasearch, and Reddit: Hotel marketers should heed the old adage to not “put all their eggs in one basket” — especially if that basket happens to be their own brand.com sites. Read more at Skift

How the Concierge Endures in an Internet World: According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the share of luxury hotels that employ concierges fell to 82 percent from nearly 100 percent between 2014 and 2016, with many concierges taking on duties that require them to abandon their once stationary posts. Read more at The New York Times

U.S. Government Says Trump Must Divest Hotel in Washington, D.C.: The government says Donald Trump must divest all financial interests in his splashy new Washington hotel or be in breach of his lease the moment he becomes president next month, House Democrats said Wednesday. Read more at Skift

YOUR TURN

Gabriel Leigh’s Outpost launches on HBO this week. Check it out here.

TIPS AND COMMENTS

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

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Photo Credit: Alaska Airlines President and CEO Brad Tilden at the airline's corporate headquarters in Seattle. Alaska's acquisition of Virgin America has cleared regulatory hurdles. Ted S. Warren / Associated Press