Virgin America adds Boston as 8th destination

Image: Sir Richard Branson
A man in a dress kisses a bearded man in a dress to mark the inaugural flight of Virgin America’s new service to Boston from its west coast bases at Los Angeles and San Francisco. These are only Virgin America’s 11th and 12th routes. anna.aero analysis shows that United competes head-to-head on 11 of these routes, American seven, Delta and Southwest three, and Alaska, jetBlue and US Airways two. (AP Photo/Virgin America, Bizuayehu Tesfaye)

After a troubled and much-delayed start Virgin America has now been operating for a full 18 months. In that time it has grown quickly (to 28 Airbus A319/A320 aircraft) although things are unsurprisingly tough resulting in a net loss of $175 million on operating revenues of $260 million for the first three quarters of 2008.

This week saw the launch of flights to its eighth destination; Boston. In 2008 Boston’s domestic traffic fell by 7.6% to 22.03 million while international traffic fell by 4.2% to 3.98 million. Overall, traffic was down 7.1% for the year from 28.1 to 26.1 million passengers.

From its home base at San Francisco airport Virgin America has started double daily flights to Boston, complemented by thrice-daily flights from Los Angeles. These become the airline’s 11th and 12th routes. Thanks to high average frequency (each route on its network is served on average almost four times daily) and some long sectors spanning from coast-to-coast, Virgin America currently operates more than two aircraft on each route. Given that it is operating on several major trunk routes Virgin America needs high frequency to compete in the market place.

Chart: Virgin America 12 routes
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 16 February 2009

United competes on 11 of 12 routes

Closer analysis of competitors on an airport-pair basis reveals that United competes head-to-head with Virgin America on 11 of its 12 routes. American competes on seven routes, Delta three, and Alaska Airlines and US Airways just two.

On each route (except for San Francisco to Washington IAD) the airline faces at least two competitors increasing to four on Los Angeles to San Francisco, New York JFK to San Francisco and Las Vegas to New York JFK. On three of its top four routes Virgin America competes directly with Southwest which also has a growing presence in San Francisco.

Image: Sir Richard Branson sitting down
Sir Richard tries out the kind of “low-cost” comfort Europeans and Asians are never likely to see aboard one of his Airbus A319’s in Boston watched by CEO and Executive Director of Massport, Thomas Kinton, and Virgin America President and CEO David Cush. (AP Photo/ Virgin America, Bizuayehu Tesfaye)

Orange County starts in April

At the end of April Virgin America plans to start service to its ninth destination, Orange County Airport (also known as John Wayne Airport) near Santa Ana in California. There will be five daily flights to San Francisco, its 13th route. Noise qualification tests were recently conducted to ensure that Virgin America’s fleet meet the famously stringent noise criteria in force at the airport.


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