The FAA has awarded Alaska Air Group a single operating certificate for Alaska Airlines and Virgin America.

The regulatory approval is a key step in the ongoing merger of the two carriers that will lead to the eventual phase-out of the Virgin America brand, but it won't affect flyers right away.

"The receipt of a single operating certificate will not result in any immediate differences for guests when flying with Alaska or Virgin America," Alaska said in a statement Thursday. For now, guests will still use respective Alaska and Virgin America mobile apps, websites and airport terminals when traveling.

Alaska Air Group plans to begin using a single reservation system for Alaska and Virgin America on April 25, at which time it will move to having just one website and mobile app, and selling all flights under the Alaska brand.

Alaska closed its $2.6 billion acquisition of Virgin America in December 2016. The company completed a significant passenger-facing integration on Jan. 1 when it merged the Alaska Mileage and the Virgin America Elevate frequent-flyer programs.

Alaska said that its employees logged approximately 70,000 hours and instituted 1,500 changes to policies and procedures as it worked to obtain the single operating certificate.

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