< PrevNext > Bradley Tilden, Alaska Airlines president & CEO The Competition Contender By Michael B. Baker / December 20, 2016 / Contact Reporter Share The road had a few more bumps than expected, but Alaska Airlines has cleared the major hurdles to acquire Virgin America, which will make it a much bigger player in the corporate travel space in the coming year. Winning the deal itself was a coup for Alaska. Once Virgin America went up for sale this year, Alaska faced a bidding war with JetBlue. Alaska prevailed, however, and will surpass JetBlue to become the fifth-largest carrier in the United States.Antitrust clearance was another major hurdle, especially considering the fight the U.S. Department of Justice put up against the merger of American Airlines and US Airways in 2013. Tilden maintained that the merger would stimulate, not hinder, competition, as Alaska would become a stronger competitive force against bigger U.S. carriers. This is a pro-consumer merger of two smaller airlines that will bring new low-fare competition." Alaska had hoped to have approval by the end of September but had to wait until early December as the DOJ extended its review. Though the DOJ required some concessions from Alaska, including ending some of its codeshares with American Airlines, DOJ antitrust division acting assistant attorney general Renata Hesse said that the merger "offers hope that a strengthened Alaska can be an even stronger competitor than before."Now, of course, the true work behind a merger begins. Alaska's and Virgin's corporate sales teams already have been talking, and Alaska is eager to present its strengthened presence in California to corporate customers there.