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VirginAmericaPlane1
Virgin America Interior–image from Virgin America
Nerd Bird–featured image from Virgin America

As the song goes, “It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you, without a dope beat to step to.”  I mean that about the blog, of course, but it also applies to my topic.

Over the past few days, I’ve kept busy researching and writing about the $500K fine the DOT imposed on Asiana, which you’ll find  on the Runway Girl Network.  I was also invited by the great folks at Skift to contribute a piece on how airlines can make their apps more useful, with insights from Tapityan award-winning Mac app developer (who have also done a service to society by replacing the defunct Flappy Bird with their addictive Buffalo Wings).  I’ve continued my work on pieces for Aircraft Interiors International Magazine, who have done me a great honour by allowing me the opportunity to write for them.  

Those articles would have been impossible without stellar contributions from the industry’s finest designers and visionaries, to whom I am grateful and indebted for their time and generosity.  

You’ll have to wait for publication of the new issues of Aircraft Interiors International to learn about everything these experts had to say.  I don’t want to spoil the surprises in store, but you won’t want to miss a single issue.

In between, I’ve also drafted and stored a few posts which need more work.  Though I haven’t gotten around to publishing any of them yet, I will.  They’re interesting topics too, but they’ll keep.

I’ve tried to figure out Virgin recently, not just Virgin Atlantic, but the Virgin brand family.

I say this as a great fan, and a very satisfied loyal passenger.

The Virgins are taking an interesting set of turns, and they have me a bit puzzled.

In many ways, that’s a very good thing.

There’s nothing like a bit of intrigue to keep things sizzling in any relationship.  Sizzle, after all, is a large part of the Virgin brand.  So is chic.

But what kind of airline is Virgin?  More accurately, what kinds of Airlines are Virgin?  It depends.

Because the questions are many, the answers are as diverse as the product offerings of the various airlines which operate with the Virgin name, and the situation really quite complex.  I won’t go into all of it today.  I’ll break it up into a series.

Today, I’ll start with Love.

Virgin America has announced that they will pursue the two gates at Love Field which American Airlines has been asked to surrender by the US Justice department, as part of their antitrust settlement.  If Virgin America should win these gates, they will abandon their seats at DFW.  They will abandon their seats at DFW.  Yes, I just repeated that.

Virgin America will choose to leave behind a hub which furnishes passengers easier connections to the rest of the country in exchange for new slots at an airport, which though wonderful, has had limited direct routes for years, and which will only free itself from these shackles when the Wright amendment is finally shelved forever, to gather dust in the annals of bad aviation law history on October 13.  (Good riddance.)

Even when the Wright amendment is defunct, Love Field, lovely though it is, will have many years to catch up before it can provide connection service comparable to DFW.

What’s more, it’s unlikely to ever catch up.

Love Field does not have the space to expand which it would require in order to give DFW a run for its money, if only on regional services.  Let’s say, if it’s there, I haven’t seen it.  They’d have to go through Heathrow-sized controversies to make that space.  (Whatever they do to expand, they better not mess with Pappas Bros. Steak House, as that would really roast my toast.)

Back to the topic at hand: Virgin Atlantic is seriously contemplating abandoning the major leagues for a promising career in the minors.  Why?

What’s more, it has to compete with Delta for the two slots.  That’s right, Delta: Virgin Atlantic’s codeshare partner; Delta: who owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic; Delta: who provides Codeshares to Virgin Australia for flights into Mexico (which happens to be pretty darned close to both Love Field and DFW).

Delta must be feeling pretty bullish about their prospects, because they’ve already started selling tickets for flights out of Love Field (or is that all part of a greater conspiracy to distract our focus and get us looking in the wrong direction?).

Virgin America also has to compete with Southwest for these slots, but hold on to that thought–we’re about to get to that.

While Virgin America will not make the official announcement on all this until Wednesday, David Cush, President and Chief Executive, has already explained that they would bow-out of DFW because they don’t want to go “head-to-head” with American for flights to Chicago, New York and Washington.  “American obviously is overwhelmingly powerful,” he is quoted as saying in the referenced Dallas News article.  True that, but still…

Why not go head to head?  Why not take advantage of the convenience of the connections you already have for your customers?  Connections at DFW are vital.  DFW is a major hub connecting flights from all around the world.  Getting into DFW is a coup for any airline.  Bowing out of DFW is tantamount to madness…

So why do it?  Have Virgin America lost their minds, or just their chutzpah?

Possibly neither.

There is a niggle at the back of my mind, some weird connections I’m making of my own.

Virgin America aims to go head-to-head with Southwest, rather than take on the American Airlines mammoth.

The US currently has only one snazzy low-cost carrier, offering a premium product, who primarily services the East Coast.

Southwest Airlines is busy stretching its international wings, improving their cabin product, but keeping its egalitarian one-service-for-all platform.

Virgin America may have three classes of service, but has settled on a uniform A320 fleet, a key element of the successful formula for a particular category of airline.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Perhaps this is not giving up, but rather going whole-hog.  Perhaps Virgin America is strategically positioning themselves to win the game.  Just a different game.

There are more interesting developments in the Virgin brand around the world.  I’ll right about those soon.  I promise.  And yes, there will continue to be weird connections.

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