Virgin America to Begin Direct Flights from Philly to California

Linda Loyd, Philadelphia Inquirer -- Virgin America Inc., California's hip and high-tech airline with seat-back touch-screen TVs, wireless Internet, and mood lighting, will begin nonstop flights from Philadelphia to California in April. Virgin America, which launched in 2007, is the first new airline to start service at Philadelphia Interantional Airport in nearly eight years

Passengers can expect fares to drop about 30 percent on routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco, at least initially.

Virgin America, a privately held airline 25 percent owned by English billionaire Richard Branson, will begin three daily round-trip flights from Los Angeles on April 4 and two daily round-trip flights from San Francisco, starting April 10.

The Burlingame, Calif., carrier is offering introductory one-way fares as low as $129 between Philadelphia and Los Angeles and $149 between Philadelphia and San Francisco, excluding taxes and fees, on its website.

"In Philadelphia, we saw two things that were particularly attractive," said Virgin America president and CEO David Cush. "One was high ticket prices, which generally when we come in drop quite a bit. "Second, about half the travelers going between Philadelphia and San Francisco and Los Angeles fly nonstop. The other half connect through other cities, like Chicago or Dallas-Fort Worth. That tells us that it is an under-served market. People are connecting because there are not enough nonstop seats on the route."

Cush said Philadelphia had "strong business and leisure travel connections" to California in higher education, finance, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals. "There are ties between our regions that can be further developed."

Getting Virgin America here is "exciting news for Philadelphia," said airport chief executive officer Mark Gale.

"Any time that we are able to bring new air service in to the airport, that's going to stimulate competition, provide lower fares for consumers, and, in the case of Virgin America, their product is highly touted."

For more on this story, read the entire Inquirer article here.