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Behind the Scenes: Virgin America Starts Service to Palm Springs

Celebrate Good Times! Sir Richard Branson helps to cut to ribbon at San Fransisco on December 15th. Photo by Nick Smith, AirlineReporter.com Correspondant.

Celebrate Good Times! Sir Richard Branson and Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnethelps cut the ribbon at San Fransisco on December 15th. Photo by Nick Smith / AirlineReporter.com.

On December 15th, Virgin America celebrated their inaugural service to Palm Springs International Airport (PSP). The airline is offering daily non-stop flights from San Fransisco (SFO) and seasonal flights from John F Kennedy International Airport (JKF) with just one stop (in SFO), but no plane change required.

If you know Virgin America, they can’t just start a new route without some fun — this was no exception. AirlineReporter.com Correspondent Nick Smith was able to join in on the fun, starting in SFO, then taking the inaugural flight to PSP and a bit of fun while relaxing at the Riviera Palm Springs (note that the costs for the flight from Seattle to SFO to PSP and the hotel were taken care of by the airline and hotel).

“The Virgin terminal immediately turned into a party,” Nick explains.  “Rat Pack impersonators set the tone of early fifties high class style that awaited down in Palm Springs.  Crowds gravitated as Dean, Sammy and Frank occasionally broke into into a solo while holding martinis (which Virgin made available to everyone waiting to board).”

SFO’s new Terminal 2 had a party atmosphere and after a few short talks and a ceremonial ribbon cutting, it was time to board the plane; one of Virgin America’s stylish Airbus A320s (N623VA).

Sir Richard Branson walks down the aisle.

Sir Richard Branson walks down the aisle. Photo by Nick Smith / AirlineReporter.com.

Although the flight was short from SFO to PSP, there was still great adventure to be had. Drinks were on hand and Nick was able to hob-knob with David Cush, President and CEO of Virgin America and Sir Richard Branson.

“Sir Branson began his day in Australia but didn’t show any signs of fatigue,” Nick explained. “He made plenty of time for everyone’s questions and brought everyone’s spirit higher than the aircraft could have by itself.  He clearly holds a lot of excitement for the new route and, like I, had never visited Palm Springs. ”

Special flights like these are always different. Most people are up and out of their seats and interacting with others. It is like a social shin-dig 30,000 feet up and this one was no different.

The Rat Pack on board the aircraft (at least people that look like them).

The Rat Pack on board the aircraft (at least people that look like them). Photo by Nick Smith / AirlineReporter.com.

“My favorite part of the flight was walking up and down the aisle talking to those who made this inaugural journey.  Not a single passenger didn’t carry a smile and everyone had a story.”

Once the plane landed, it was welcomed by a water cannon salute and local media. There were lots of poses on the red carpet before Branson was whisked off in a helicopter (he is one busy dude) and other invited guests headed to the Riviera for some great food and drinks.

The feeling of the hotel really mirrors the energy from the surrounding area. “I asked Geoff Young, General Manager, a little about the history and style of this place, which encapsulates the spirit that made Palm Springs so popular in the heyday of early 1960′s Hollywood vacationing style,” Nick reported back. “He, as well as each member of the staff, showed absolute professionalism and commitment to service.  It’s been a while since I actually felt special at a resort; this place did it.” This is about the time where I really start regretting sending Nick and wishing I was able to make the trip on my own — oh well.

What would Palm Springs be without Palm trees? Photo by Nick Smith / AirlineReporter.com.

What would Palm Springs be without Palm trees? Photo by Nick Smith / AirlineReporter.com.

Palm Springs is the 16th desitnation that Virgin America flies to and it most likely won’t be the last. They have over 50 planes on order and big plans to continue growing. Although they hit a snag withing having to cancel their flight to Toronto and that pesky issue with not always making profit, they are still an airline that many in the business have started to watch closely. Palm Springs seems like a good fit for the airline and the city is excited to have them.

“The Virgin brand is a perfect fit with our destination,” said Scott White, President and CEO of Palm Springs Desert Resorts CVA.  “From our stylish hotels and resorts to our international festivals and 360 days of sunshine, the Virgin America guest will be able to find and experience their personal oasis!  Virgin America’s new nonstop and through flights from SFO and JFK will also lower fares and improve service in our market, allowing more travelers to enjoy all that our unique region has to offer.”