Fresh from announcing its first annual profit, San Francisco-based Virgin America is busting out all over. This week it proudly announced that that US Department of Justice selected Virgin alone to compete with Southwest Airlines at close in, convenient Dallas Love Field (DAL). It’s also making other moves to make it more attractive to business travelers. (Previous post)
First, let’s look at Dallas. Attempting to set its sassy self apart from Southwest’s no-frills flights, Virgin’s announcement stated that it will be, “the only carrier at DAL to offer a consistent, upscale product on every flight with three classes of service [first, premium economy, economy], as well as wi-fi, in seat power outlets, confirmed seating and touch-screen seat back entertainment.”
Part of what has held Virgin back on some routes is its thin schedule, something that’s a turn off to business travelers who value frequency due to changing plans. So in Dallas, it’s going in big. On Oct 13, it will offer three round trips per day between DAL and Washington Reagan National (DCA), San Francisco and Los Angeles. Starting Oct 28, 2014, it will offer four round trips per day from Dallas to La Guardia airport. Departures are in the morning and late afternoon– just what business travelers like. Plus, Dallas Love Field, New York La Guardia and Washington National are small, close in and convenient… all about 15 minutes from downtown (when traffic is light)— a huge draw for business travelers. In some cases, it might make sense for a traveler from SFO or LAX to connect through Dallas to be able to fly into La Guardia instead of the distant JFK or EWR. Would you? Please leave your comments below.
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Then, in 2015, it plans to bulk up its DAL schedule, with daily round trips to Chicago O’Hare and additional daily flights to SFO, LAX, DCA. That’s starting to sound like a hub operation to me. I would not be surprised to see Virgin add flights to other cities in the eastern half of the country, too, which means that flyers from its western hubs at SFO and LAX could connect to (hopefully) cities like Atlanta, Miami or New Orleans. Virgin has 10 new jets on order for delivery in 2015-2016, so they are going to have to fly somewhere! Note: While Virgin has a deal with DOJ, to operate at Love Field, it still must pass muster with the City of Dallas, according to this USA Today story.
To celebrate the new service, Virgin is offering a great deal– just $160 round trip to all cities it will serve from Dallas, if booked by 11:59pm CT on Saturday, April 26. Details here.
There was even more good news for Virgin this week when JetBlue announced that it would ground its 2x daily “Nerd Bird” flights between SFO and Austin. On the same day JetBlue announced its pullout, Virgin announced it would expand at Austin-Bergstrom with a second daily SFO nonstop. The new service will start on July 8 with business travel friendly early morning and late afternoon departures. The only other carrier in the lucrative SFO-AUS market is United, which offers five daily roundtrips.
In its scramble to take advantage of its new landing slots at New York La Guardia, Washington National and now Dallas, Virgin is having to re-jigger its fleet quickly. As a result, it’s withdrawing from the Philadelphia market in October.
What do you think about Virgin’s big moves? Would you be more likely to choose Virgin if you could connect in Dallas to more cities? Fly via Dallas to connect to La Guardia? Please leave your comments below!