High-profile discounter Virgin America said today that it would move to start service to Chicago's O'Hare, which would be its eighth destination since launching in August.
Virgin, founded by British billionaire Richard Branson -- he of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Records fame -- says it will file for government permission to fly four daily flights both to San Francisco and LA, starting in November, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Virgin has drawn significant consumer interest because of its lower fares and on-board amenities like leather seats, help-yourself minibars, seatback satellite TV, pay-per-view movies, and libraries of mp3 files so travelers can make and enjoy their own playlists. But the carrier, which appears to have deep pockets, has also drawn media attention because of its aggressive expansion at a time when other competitors are struggling and making cuts.
OK, that's all very interesting, but what does this mean to you? Virgin, which now serves seven cities -- San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, San Diego, Washington, D.C., and Seattle -- has said that it was planning to add two cities east of the Mississippi this year. And in a February interview, Virgin CEO David Cush hinted that the lucky two could be Chicago and Boston, saying the carrier favored cities with large business centers.
But today Abby Lunardini, Virgin America director of corporate communications, said that the two cities the airline planned to go into were Chicago and Newark, N.J., but that plans for Newark got shelved because of government rules aimed at curbing air traffic in the New York area.
Lunardini said that Virgin probably would not open up any other Eastern cities this year after being waved off Newark. But she said that right now, "Boston is at the top of the list.''