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Both Sides of the Aisle Win: Virgin America Starts DCA Service

Whoa, Virgin American got President Obama and Romney (impersonators) to join in on the flight.

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.

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

Two Airlines Have to Land at Washington’s Reagan Airport With No Tower Contact

Hello? Is anyone there?! (yea, I know this is not a shot of DCA, but let's pretend)

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.