Even more sunny Philadelphia: Virgin America makes PHL 17th destination; LA and SFO flights start April

The mysterious ‘Greenman’ from the FX television show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” near a Virgin America aircraft.

Virgin America's PHL announcement featuring the mysterious ‘Greenman’ from the FX television show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” near a Virgin America aircraft.

Virgin America this week revealed that Philadelphia International Airport would become its 17th destination, with the introduction of three daily flights from Los Angeles (starting 4 April), and two daily flights from San Francisco (starting 10 April). The airline’s narrowbody Airbus fleet will operate the services.

The Los Angeles route is already served year-round by Delta and US Airways, with United operating additional flights during the summer. The annual market on the route is around 325,000 passengers according to US government statistics. The San Francisco route is also served year-round by United and US Airways. During the summer United operates two daily non-stop flights and US Airways a further five daily flights.

According to the US DOT’s Domestic Airline Fares Consumer Report for the first quarter of 2011 (published in November), Philadelphia’s average domestic fares are around 7% above the national average, although on ‘long-haul’ markets (such as California) the fare premium at the airport is only just over 2%. The same report also reveals that the San Francisco/Oakland to Philadelphia market is the most expensive city-pair in the US with a block distance of over 2400 miles. US Airways has the highest market share but with an average one-way fare of $439. The average one-way fare across all airlines is $371 with Southwest (which flies to Oakland) the cheapest at $246. The Philadelphia to Los Angeles Metro area market has average one-way fares of $312 with US Airways again the leader in market share, but with an average fare of $351.

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What they said (about “legacy airline cattle cars”)

“When more airlines compete, consumers win – with lower fares and better service. Travelers deserve more options than just the typical legacy airline cattle car, and we hope our unique brand of low fares and inventive service will be a breath of fresh air for Philadelphians,” said Virgin America President and Chief Executive Officer David Cush. “In addition to being a historic and vibrant city, this market has strong business and leisure travel connections to California – and we thank both Mayor Nutter and Philadelphia International Airport officials for welcoming our new service.”

“This is a great development for the entire Philadelphia region, including northern Delaware, southern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania,” said Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “New airline service not only lowers fares for travelers, but it is also a major economic driver – stimulating business travel, tourism and local job growth. Virgin America’s new flights also validate the strong and growing business travel link between our region’s innovation-based sectors and those on the West Coast.”

“We’re thrilled to welcome Virgin America to Philadelphia,” said Philadelphia International Airport Chief Executive Officer Mark Gale. “Philadelphia travelers will undoubtedly benefit from the increased competition – both through lower fares and the airline’s award-winning service. Today is truly a great day for the entire Philadelphia region.”


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