Alaska Airlines’ president Ben Minicucci has hailed “a big moment for our company”, following the issuing of a single FAA operating certificate for Alaska Airlines and Virgin America.

The group purchased Virgin America in 2016, and is gradually moving towards the integration of the carrier into the Alaska Airlines brand.

Virgin’s Elevate loyalty programme was closed on December 31, with member accounts being moved into the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan scheme, and from late April the two carriers will move to a single reservations system.

Ahead of this the company has obtained a single operating certificate for both carriers’ flights, and while Alaska Airlines said that the move “will not result in any immediate differences for guests when flying with Alaska or Virgin America”, the group said it was “another significant milestone in the integration of the two airlines”.

In March last year Alaska announced plans to retire the Virgin America brand, with Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson calling it “a sad (and some would say baffling) day”.

The combined group, along with regional subsidiary Horizon Air, offers flights to 115 destinations with an average of 1,200 daily flights across the US and to Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica and Cuba.