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Virgin America Flights Out of O’Hare Uncertain Next Year

Wed August 11 2010 6:00 am
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Virgin Atlantic Airways A340-300 takeoff from O’Hare — not the same airline as Virgin America.

Virgin America recently claimed it was negotiating with the city of Chicago for an “economically viable” deal at O’Hare, but Bloomberg is reporting it appears they will not be coming to O’Hare next year. Virgin America is a completely different airline than Virgin Atlantic Airways, although there are some familiar owners.

Virgin, partly owned by U.K. billionaire Richard Branson, released a statement yesterday that it will start twice-daily flights between Dallas and Los Angeles on Dec. 1, and similar flight to San Francisco on Dec. 6.

The announcement follows talks with the city of Chicago and carriers including Delta, American and United Airlines, and with Virgin America not yet successful in securing gates at O’Hare International Airport. The City of Chicago/O’Hare International Airport has leased the gates to carriers already serving O’Hare on an exclusive basis through 2018.

Bloomberg quotes Chief Executive Officer David Cush in an interview saying, “We’ve tried to work with the city and the airport and have made no progress in the last 12 months. We have a number of other airports that have been quite accommodating and are rolling out the welcome mat right now.”

Virgin America has aircraft that would let it begin flights from Chicago in 2011’s second quarter, Cush told Bloomberg.

Virgin America, Inc. is a United States-based low-cost airline that began service on August 8, 2007 and is also the product of British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson. San Francisco International Airport is Virgin America’s principal base of operations. By law, no more than 25% of a U.S. airline may be owned by foreign interests and must be under the “actual control” of U.S. citizens. Black Canyon Capital LLC owns 75% of the capital stock and is responsible for appointing two-thirds of the voting members of the board of directors. The remaining 25% of the company is owned by Virgin Group, which also licenses the Virgin brand to the airline.

Virgin America’s mission is to provide low-fare, high-quality service for “long-haul point-to-point service between major metropolitan cities on the Eastern and West Coast seaboards.” Virgin America’s frequent flyer program is known as eleVAte and runs on a “dollars spent versus miles accrued” model.

Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited (operating as Virgin Atlantic) is a British airline owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group (51%) and Singapore Airlines (49%). Virgin Atlantic is headquartered in Crawley, West Sussex, England, near London Gatwick Airport. While some cutbacks in flights from Heathrow to O’Hare have occurred in the past year, Virgin Atlantic Airways will still be seen in the skies over Chicagoland.

Virgina Atlantic operates between the United Kingdom and North America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia from main bases at Gatwick and London Heathrow Airport, using a mixed fleet of Airbus and Boeing wide-body aircraft.

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