Virgin America, the California-based discount airline, will launch service at Logan Airport starting Feb. 12 with service to San Francisco and Los Angeles.
"Boston is a great fit for us when you look at our business strategy. We link major urban centers, and there are a lot of ties between Boston and the San Francisco area in terms of tech fields, medicine, education,'' David Cush, president and chief executive of Virgin America, said this morning.
Virgin’s announcement comes three days after it said that it would suspend plans to fly out of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, the latest in a series of recent setbacks to the company’s aggressive growth plans.
Virgin is planning two daily flights from Logan to San Francisco International and three to Los Angeles, with main cabin rates starting at $149 one way, $570 for main cabin premium service, and $999 in first class. Tickets are now on sale on the airline's website.
Virgin, whose operational base is at San Francisco International Airport, began service in August 2007 with ambitious plans to be in as many as ten cities within its first year and up to 30 in five years.
It was the brainchild of British billionaire Richard Branson, who is a minority investor in the carrier and has licensed the Virgin brand to the company but is barred by US law from owning or controlling it.
Virgin currently serves San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, San Diego, and Seattle. Boston will be its eighth city.
Analysts have said that the key to Virgin’s growth would be its ability to develop a network around major business centers but it has recently been stymied in attempts to enter new markets.
The discount carrier said that it was planning to add two cities east of the Mississippi this year. And in a February interview, Cush hinted that the lucky two could be Chicago and Boston.
Virgin finally opted for Chicago and Newark, N.J. Plans for Newark got shelved this spring, however, because of government restrictions aimed at curbing air traffic in the New York area. And on Friday Virgin suspended its Chicago plans after failing to secure the gates they needed.
Virgin representatives had suggested that the carrier would likely not pursue expansion into Boston this year, amid the economic downturn.
But, Cush said, it was the decision to turn away from Chicago that opened the door to initiating service at Logan.
"We'd been talking to Logan since the beginning of operations in August,'' he said. "But things really heated up last week. We had some planes coming in, and we wanted to be able to put them in operation. So when it came time to look at pulling the plug on Chicago we got in touch with the people at Logan, and they were able to work out a nice offer of arrangements for us.''
Edward C. Freni, the Logan's director of aviation, has said that moves to consolidate operations of merger partners Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines in Terminal A would clear space for the airport to offer gates to another domestic carrier.
Virgin’s Logan operations will be based in Terminal B, Matthew Brelis, an airport spokesman, said.
While the airline’s focus is on business travel, Virgin has also found favor with many leisure travelers owing to its newer planes, hip interior designs and mood lighting, and its luxury approach to lower-fare travel, which features leather seats, satellite TV, on-demand movies, streaming radio, and selection of MP3 music files. It also plans offer WiFi on all its aircraft by spring 2009.