At Virgin America’s Newark Airport inaugural celebration this week, I had the opportunity to sit down with CEO David Cush for AirlineReporter.com. While talking about their new Airbus A320 with Sharklets, Cush detailed his airlines future plans for flights to Hawaii.
Jason: “You just took delivery of your first A320 with Sharklets, when do you expect that to enter into service?
Cush: “It should be in about two weeks, let’s call it around April 25th or so.”
Jason: “Do you have any idea which route it will be flying initially?”
Cush: “It’ll be flying some of the longer routes, because of the efficiency, so probably San Francisco-Boston, San Francisco-JFK. We took delivery of that one in Hamburg, and it was a beautiful airplane on the way over. Our chief pilot flew it over, and we actually saw greater than 4 per cent efficiency from Sharklets. So they estimated 3.5, we saw a little bit over 4.
Jason: “How do you estimate that will impact your operations?”
Cush: “We fly these aircraft kind of at the edge of their performance. When we’re flying Boston to San Francisco, in the winter and into headwinds, that’s about all that aircraft can do. Now what we got is an airplane that can do that easily without weight restrictions. So it’s not only a fuel efficiency thing, it’s a performance thing.
Jason: “I know that JetBlue had taken delivery of the first production retrofit a couple of months ago, and they have been doing that exact route, and they report that they have to make fewer tech stops to refuel. Do you anticipate less stops or was that a problem initially without Sharklets?>
Cush: “We don’t take tech stops. If we’ve got a long flight plan or strong winds, what we do is we basically buy passengers off the airplane. So, rather than inconveniencing everyone, what we’ll do is will find people to buy off, and they’ll wait for the next one. We take very few tech stops, usually when it’s an unplanned change. But what this will mean is that we will never have to take passengers out of the aircraft again.
Jason: “How often do that [buying passengers off the flight] happen right now?”
Cush: “I would say during the dead of winter, with a bad jet stream, I would say maybe as much of 10 per cent of the flights out of Boston.
Jason: “Do you anticipate the impact of Sharklets being able to open any new routes in the future?
Cush: “The main thing is that it lets you do West Coast to Hawaii, and that’s something you can’t do with the current aircraft. And so we’ll be using Sharklet equipped airplanes in 2015 when we start flying to Hawaii, and we can’t do that without the Sharklets.
Jason: “Are there any plans to retrofit current aircraft with Sharklets?”
Cush: “We’re going to wait and see. You know, there’s a lot of work you have to do on the wing, a lot of weight you add to the aircraft, which is a little bit of a challenge for us. We like the fuel efficiency, we don’t like the additional weight, so we’re not in a big hurry to do it. I know JetBlue is really blazing that trail, we’ll probably just sit back and see what their experience is, and if it’s good, we’ll probably go ahead and do the same thing.
Jason: “All future deliveries of Airbus aircraft at this point, will they be Sharklet equipped?
Cush: “All of ours will be. We’re not taking any more airplanes until 2015, and then we’ll take 10 from 2015 to 2016.
|This story written by… Jason Rabinowitz, Correspondent.
Jason is a New York City native who has grown up in the shadow of JFK International Airport. A true “avgeek”, he enjoys plane spotting and photography, as well taking any opportunity he can get to fly on an aircraft.