One day I’ll have the guts to ask for a photo with him, as I may be his biggest fan – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
Look, I love His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways. If he’s doing an event and I’m free, I’ll go see him. Thing is, usually someone else is paying when he’s involved. I am not saying that derisively or sarcastically. Most of the time when I see him, Qatar Airways has provided me with the tickets out of their extreme generosity.
One time it was Airbus and Qatar Airways in a joint venture, and it is hard to say no to that. Can’t appreciate it enough, but that said, a sedate press conference across the country isn’t exactly what Qatar Airways gathers people for on their dime. Even more so when most of the press contingent is based in DC anyway.
Alaska Airlines 737-900ER at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – Photo: Alaska
So, being the odd person that I am, I needed to find another reason to go to DC along with the press conference to justify the expense. I didn’t need to qualify for my AAdvantage account, since I already had nearly double-Executive Platinum planned for the year. There are times when all this goes out the window and one doesn’t need to really find an excuse to fly somewhere. But I just felt like I needed a second reason and I found it.
I am a huge fan of celebrity chef and Hannibal menu designer José Andreas. I’ve eaten at é, multiple Jaleos, Minibar, and, best of all, China Poblano. When I found out that José’s next restaurant was China Chilcano in DC…boom — reason established.
Whoa, Virgin American got President Obama and Romney (impersonators) to join in on the flight. Image from Virgin America.
When most airlines start a new route, they might send out a boring press release to announce it to the world, but not Virgin America. The airline has a history of making a party out of each of their new destinations and their new route from San Fransisco (SFO) to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) is no different.
Sure, Virgin America has been flying into DC for a while, but only to Dulles International Airport (IAD), not DCA.
Previously, there were no direct flights from SFO to DCA via any airline, due to restrictions on destinations more than 1,250 miles away. The recent FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (click that link if you want 300 pages of amazing reading), authorized the DOT to award a limited number of new flights to domestic airports located farther away. In May, United Airlines started flying the route non-stop and now Virgin America is the only other competition.
So what gimmick was Virgin American going to have for this inaugural? They had Always Sunny in Philadelphia for their PHL flight, Rat Pack for Palm Springs, Boxing with Chicago and just plain awesome with Toronto — which is no longer an active route for the airline. This is an election year and the flight is going to DC, so why not involve politics? The airline had presidential impersonators Jim Gossett as “Mitt” and Reggie Brown as “Barack” on the flight.
Use your smart phone to scan the QR code on RED and register to vote. Image from Virgin America.
This trip was not just a party, but also an effort to get more people registered to vote. Virgin America has partnered with Rock the Vote and passengers are able to register to vote using the airline’s in-flight entertainment system and their smart phones.
“We the people get to decide who will be flying to DC next year as our representatives, but no matter who you are voting for this November, you have to be registered first,” said Heather Smith, President of Rock The Vote. “Rock the Vote is thrilled to bring voter registration to Virgin America’s guests as well as the opportunity to make a donation to support our efforts to register 1.5 million new voters and educate young Americans about participating in our democracy.”
Virgin America currently serves 18 destinations, a fleet of 52 Airbus A320-family aircraft and over 2,600 employees.
SEE MORE PHOTOS OF THE INAUGURAL FLIGHT ON VIRGIN AMERICA’S FACEBOOK
Hello? Is anyone there?! (yea, I know this is not a shot of DCA, but let's pretend)
Being able to talk to the tower when you want to land at a large airport, just miles away from the nation’s capital, is a good thing. Not being able to talk to traffic control when two airliners are trying to land is not.
Early Wednesday morning, a United Airlines and an American Airlines flight were unable to reach the control tower at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington DC. After the American flight aborted their landing and circled the airport, both landed while talking to a regional tower and announcing their actions to any other aircraft that might be in the area.
There was only one controller on duty and federal investigators are seeing if that controller might have fallen asleep. Since this happened between midnight and 1am, there wasn’t much traffic, but it is still an unsafe situation. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has asked the FAA to require two controllers be on duty at DCA in the future.
To learn more and get quotes from an airline pilot, United Airlines, the FAA and others, check out my story on AOL Travel News.