State of the Airlines

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Virgin America Introduces Jefferson Airplane

Virgin America's attempts to gain approval to operate in the US may still be in a holding pattern but they are working the campaign trail. The airline unveiled its first aircraft, an A320, at San Francisco International (SFO) on Wednesday duly name "Jefferson Airplane" in honor of its San Francisco roots. Virgin America even managed to get Grace Slick to come out for the presentation of the aircraft.

Controversy still swirls regarding ownership of the airline despite the fact that they can clearly show that Virgin brands kingpin, Richard Branson's share is 25%, the maximum foreign ownership allowed under US law. It seems that the US Dept of Tranportation is taking its sweet time in the approval process. One reason for that is that several US airlines are bending the ear of the DOT and every Congressman that will listen and these airlines do carry some clout in Washington DC. One only needs to look as far as the recent Wright Amendment compromise to see that clout in action. Its a fair bet that they would all like to see Virgin America either fade away or have Virgin's start up delayed as long as possible while they shore up their defenses. Terrific post here. But Virgin does not appear to be going anywhere as they are poised to launch the most heavily captilized start up airline in US history. I think the investors backing the airline realize Virgin's name and their ability to generate a lot of swagger and PR make sticking with the process a good bet. Certainly high risk but high reward if it works. Will Virgin America be a west coast version of JetBlue?

PS. Hey, when's the last time you heard "Grace Slick" and "virgin" in the same sentence...yeah...that's what I thought.

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