Virgin America has added a second New York airport to its transcontinental US service, increasing their appeal to Virgin Australia travellers looking to make the jump from Los Angeles to New York.
On top of the current coast-to-coast shuttle from LAX and San Francisco to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Virgin America now runs an additional three daily flights into Newark Liberty International Airport, NYC's second-largest airport.
Virgin’s launch of transcon flights sees it go up against United Airlines, which recently upgraded its own coast-to-coast ‘PS’ (Premium Service) flights with lie-flat beds in business class while also introducing economy seats for the first time onto the previously premium-only flights.
(Ironically, as Virgin America geared up for this David vs Goliath battle, a breakdown of consumer complaints filed with the US Department of Transportation in 2012 revealed that Virgin was regarded as offering America’s best service and United the worst.)
"Our new nonstop service from Newark to the West Coast is bringing some healthy competition to travelers” observed Virgin America CEO David Cush, his remarks echoing the Virgin Australia vs Qantas stoush being played out here.
“Before we entered the market, these routes previously had some of the highest fares in the nation. Since we entered the market, fares have dropped by nearly 40 percent (and) last-minute walk-up fares have dropped by about 30 percent.”
Virgin’s LAX-EWR and SFO-EWR flights all include the Main Cabin Select rows with their extra legroom over economy, free meals and drinks and dedicated overhead bins.
Each flight also offers Gogo’s inflight Internet service and there are AC sockets at every seat so your laptop can remain juiced up during the six hour flight.
The cost of staying connected from coast to coast is US$14, but if you've got a few trips on your itinerary you can buy a US$40 monthly pass that's valid across all Gogo-equipped airlines (Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, US Airways and Virgin America).
What Virgin Australia Velocity members get...
While Virgin Australia currently doesn't codeshare with Virgin America on these cross-country routes, you'll still earn Velocity frequent flyer points on them.
Velocity Platinum and Gold status qualifies you for priority check-in, priority screening and priority boarding on all Virgin America-operated flights.
Lower-status Silvers don't get priority screening so they'll have to mix it with the masses, but they can still skip some queues with priority check-in and priority boarding.
And what US business travellers want...
Virgin America has also released the results of a survey among members of its Elevate frequent flyers scheme.
When asked about their “most wanted” airline amenity when traveling for business, 40% said put nonstop flights (rather than hopping via an airline’s hub) atop their list, while 24% nominated in-flight Internet.
A third of travellers reported using Virgin America’s inflight Internet on every flight, while one in five hooked up every two or three flights.
Delays were predictably rated as the most frustrating aspect of business travel, cited by one in three respondents, followed by “not enough legroom or seat space” (16%).
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.