Virgin America Finally Gets Gate To Begin Service To Chicago

Virgin America Finally Gets Gate To Begin Service To Chicago

By Andrew Compart

x.gifVirgin America, which has aspired to begin service to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport since 2008, finally will do so with two daily flights from Los Angeles and three from San Francisco, starting May 25.

The San Francisco-based, low-cost carrier also says travelers from O’Hare to the West Coast airports also will be able to connect to San Diego, Seattle and Las Vegas.
Virgin America, which launched in August 2007, notes that it first announced its intent to serve O’Hare in 2008. But the airline’s ambitions were thwarted by its inability to secure gate access at a cost it considered reasonable.

The breakthrough came in an agreement the city of Chicago reached with Delta Air Lines to acquire the leasehold interest in 11 gates that Delta vacated in Concourse L, freeing up at least some of them for use by new-entrant carriers and new routes (Aviation Daily, Feb. 14). Chicago Mayor Richard Daley presented the proposed agreement Feb. 9 to the Chicago City Council, which next meets on March 9.
Six of the gates will be leased to American Airlines, which is currently subleasing five of them from Delta. The mayor’s office says the remaining five gates will be available for various airlines on a common use basis, and Virgin America will be using one of those gates.

“We’ve talked about [Chicago] for several years,” Virgin America CEO David Cush said at a news conference Feb. 17 in Chicago. “We’re just happy that it’s finally happened.”
Cush said fares typically drop about 30% in markets that his airline enters, and he expects to have that same effect at O’Hare. Virgin America will be competing directly against American and United Airlines service, which have much higher frequency, a plus for business travelers. United offers up to nine daily flights to San Francisco and American six. For Los Angeles, both United and American offer up to nine.

There is no direct low-cost competition from O’Hare, but Southwest Airlines offers service from Chicago Midway Airport with up to five daily flights to Los Angeles and two to San Francisco.

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Copyright © 2011 Aviation Week,

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