A few Virgin tails! Image from Virgin.
Two big announcements came from Virgin America last week and I think they are both worth looking at. First, they stated they will start flying to Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport (DFW). There will be daily flights from Los Angeles (LAX) and San Fransisco to DFW starting in December of this year. This will become the 12th destination that Virgin American visits.
’œDallas-Fort Worth is one of the largest metropolitan areas in North America and a major center of business with strong ties to California most notably in the financial services, energy and the Silicon Prairie-Silicon Valley high-tech sectors,’ said Virgin America President and CEO David Cush.
These new flights will obviously compete against American Airlines to the same destinations and their dominance at DFW. As Dan Webb in his Things in the Sky blog points out, Virgin America is not the first low-cost carrier to compete on these routes. AirTran tried the DFW to LAX and wasn’t able to make it work. Will Virgin America be able to wow American passengers with their fun atmosphere and superb in-flight entertainment? With Virgin America’s recent order of 40 new aircraft (and 20 more options) they seem pretty confident they will be successful.
In typical Virgin America style, there has to be a sexual innuendo tied into this announcement and I am not surprised they went with “Virgin America Does Dallas,” (if you don’t understand it, Google it…but not while at work).
On the bottom of every Virgin America’s press releases is the statement, “Virgin America is a U.S. owned, controlled and operated airline. It is an entirely separate company from Virgin Atlantic. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is a minority share investor in Virgin America.” Even though Virgin America shares the same brand name, the ownership structures are very different with the other branded airlines. Where the different Virgin airline brands were kept pretty separated previously, the second bit of news connects them like never before.
Virgin-brand airlines; Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin America and V Australia/Virgin Blue have become mileage partners. That means if you fly any of those Virgin brands, you are able to earn and redeem frequent flier miles. As a nice little bonus, if you end up flying on two of the brands before the beginning of the year, you can actually win a trip to Sir Richard Branson’s private island.
So what does all this mean? It means that Virgin America is becoming a real player in the domestic market. They might not be making profit right now, but they are improving and have the confidence and motivation to succeed, which always seems to work out well for competition and passengers.
reLAX, enjoy some snacks and the view
A new and exciting concept has popped up at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Those who fly regularly on a particular airline or have no problem paying for the First Class ticket get to experience the VIP airline lounges often.
Now, you don’t have to have thousands of miles or thousands of dollars to be treated like a VIP. A new pay-by-the-hour lounge at LAX gives you ability to get VIP treatment at an economy-seat price.
For only $10 for an hour, $25 for three, $35 for five or $50 for the entire day, you can hang out at reLAX Lounge. The lounge has top-notch amenities, free wi-fi, free refreshments, some snacks and amazing views of airlines outside the window. It is located before the security check points, so if you are flying out, have a layover, or waiting for an arriving flight, you can enjoy the amenities.
I asked Walter Vergara, the creator and marketing director, about how business was doing. “Business is doing well better than expected, there is a real need for this product specially when so many business class travelers are flying economy due to the economy and companies cutting back,” Vergara said. He also told me they were looking at opening additional locations at other airports by the end of 2010 or early 2011.
I asked about what the space reLAX is currently taking up was going to be used for. Vergara told me originally the airport was going to use the space for public concessions, but while LAX was building their mutli-million dollar VIP lounges they used the reLAX space for a temporary airline lounge. After the airlines moved to their new homes, reLAX was created and opened December 4, 2008.
Harriet Baskas, who is a columnist for USA Today and MSNBC and writes her own blog, was recently at LAX and took a look at what reLAX offers. She was welcomed to view the reLAX Lounge without having to pay the $10. However she told me, “I would, however, be willing to pay that $10 for the first hour another time – for the Wi-Fi, the great view, the comfy chairs, and especially the snacks. I paid more than that for a lot less out in the food court.”
* More photos of reLAX
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A different perspective at LAX
LAX, which is known for their “close calls” and poor safety record, announced a new warning system aimed at preventing runway accidents.
The $7 million project uses a combination of a runway status light system, radar, and traffic controllers to maintain the safety of all the aircraft and support vehicles.
Lights on the pavement will flash when radar detects a possible conflict between planes or ground vehicles. Once the lights flash, all parties must contact the tower and get clearance before proceeding.
The light system has previously been tested at the San Diego and Dallas-Fort Worth airports. The system caused the number of close calls to drop from 10 to 3 in similar 2.5 year periods before and after the installation.
Currently the system is installed on one of LAX’s four runways and only 8 of its taxi ways.
Source: LA Times Image: waioli