The First Virgin America A320 With Sharklets

The First Virgin America A320 With Sharklets

At Virgin America’s Newark Airport inaugural celebration this week, I had the opportunity to sit down with CEO David Cush for While talking about their new Airbus A320 with Sharklets, Cush detailed his airlines future plans for flights to Hawaii.

Jason: ’œYou just took delivery of your first A320 with Sharklets, when do you expect that to enter into service?

Cush: ’œIt should be in about two weeks, let’s call it around April 25th or so.’

Jason: ’œDo you have any idea which route it will be flying initially?’

Cush: ’œIt’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: ’œHow do you estimate that will impact your operations?’

Cush: ’œWe 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: ’œI 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: ’œWe 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: ’œHow often do that [buying passengers off the flight] happen right now?’

Cush: ’œI 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: ’œDo you anticipate the impact of Sharklets being able to open any new routes in the future?

Cush: ’œThe 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: ’œAre there any plans to retrofit current aircraft with Sharklets?’

Cush: ’œWe’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: ’œAll future deliveries of Airbus aircraft at this point, will they be Sharklet equipped?

Cush: ’œAll 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.

@AirlineFyer | FaceBook |Virgin America, Sharklets, Hawaii

CORRESPONDENT - NEW YORK, NY. Jason is an #AvGeek that does passenger experience research, data analysis, and writes things about airlines, airplanes and travel. Email:
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Great interview Jason I enjoyed reading it. Perhaps next time you think you might run into someone like David you could get some questions for your blog readers to ask? I can think of lots of things I’d like to ask him!

Hey Graham,

Normally happens that has quite a few opportunities to run into Mr. Cush. What type of questions would you be interested in?


Glen Towler

It amazes me that sharklets haven’t been retro fitted to A320s years ago the saving are well huge 4% is a lot of money to a airline

So… when VX starts flying Hawaii routes, I guess their partnership with HA will be canceled.

Brian Bundridge

I’ll be on the first flight to Hawaii if it is out of Seattle.

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