Despite being delayed nearly an hour due to heavy thunderstorms, Sir Richard Branson”s US dream took to the air yesterday (8 August) as Virgin America made dual maiden flights from New York”s JFK and Los Angeles International airports to the airline”s hub at San Francisco.
It appears the weather forced some passengers to miss the New York departure, but definitely on board were Branson himself, plus airline CEO, Fred Reid, who, following the US Department of Transportation”s (DOT) restricted approval for the new carrier, will have to stand down shortly.
"I commend Fred Reid and his team for building a different kind of US airline,” said Branson. "With its low fares and innovative features, Virgin America is sure to usher in a new era of domestic travel for US consumers."
Although the Virgin team is understandably enthusiastic, some airline experts say the market place is now too crowded for all to succeed. The Virgin launch was bitterly opposed by other carriers, although Branson has made it clear at every opportunity that he is a passive investor and the running of the airline is totally in American hands.
Initially, Virgin America will offer two daily flights between San Francisco and New York and five return services between San Francisco and Los Angeles International. A third San Francisco - New York flight will be added on 19 August and a fourth on 9 September.
On 29 August, Virgin America will start service between New York - Los Angeles with two daily flights, adding a third on 16 September. A twice-daily service between San Francisco - Washington Dulles International Airport will commence on 26 September; San Francisco - Las Vegas on 10 October with three daily flights; and Los Angeles - Washington DC on 24 October with two daily flights.
Virgin America has been conceived as a low cost model and has already taken delivery of ten Airbus A320 series aircraft. The airline offers interactive in-flight entertainment systems, plugs for laptops and other portable electronic devices, the ability to order food or chat with other passengers from video-screens and a host of further features aimed at bringing back what it calls ”a little fun” into flying.