Feb 172011
 

VxA320b I wrote last week about O'Hare freeing up some terminal space for new airlines in their L concourse.  And now, less than a week later, Virgin America has announced new service to Chicago, commencing on 25 May, something they've been trying to achieve for close on three years.

There will be two daily roundtrips between Chicago and LAX and three daily roundtrips between Chicago and SFO.  Fares start at $99 each way (plus the dismayingly long laundry list of fees and taxes, etc).

The schedule will be

FROM

TO

DEP

ARR

 

FROM

TO

DEP

ARR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ORD

LAX

845

1100

 

LAX

ORD

1205

1810

ORD

LAX

1915

2135

 

LAX

ORD

1755

2345

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ORD

SFO

700

930

 

SFO

ORD

655

1305

ORD

SFO

1405

1635

 

SFO

ORD

1025

1640

ORD

SFO

1735

2010

 

SFO

ORD

1635

2245

Virgin points out, hopefully, that you can connect on to/from Seattle, Las Vegas and San Diego, but of course most people traveling between those cities and Chicago would probably prefer a nonstop flight.

This schedule represents about one third of the gate's capacity, and Virgin America advise they have been given a complete one of the five gates O'Hare freed up.  So there would seem to be an opportunity to grow additional flights if the market supports them.

When asked, a Virgin spokeswoman coyly answered

We'll look forward to seeing how Chicago travelers take to our unique service, before we consider further expansion – but we're confident because we've been hearing from travelers (especially business travelers seeking out our power outlets, fleetwide WiFi, touch-screen live TV and upscale service) that they've been wanting us to fly to ORD since 2008!

The five roundtrip flights don't make much of a dent in the massive presence enjoyed by UA and AA at ORD, but it definitely adds strength to Virgin America's route system.

Virgin kicked off their new service with a special promotion on Groupon – the internet discount coupon site that is becoming such an inexplicably 'hot' thing on the internet, selling $77 discounts to 2053 people for $7 each (ie a net saving of $70 – about a 35% saving on their lowest $198 roundtrip fare).  Unsurprisingly, the discounts sold lightning fast.

But even at regular prices, the Virgin flying experience is usually slightly better than that offered by their 'dinosaur' competitors.

 

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