In a move which should be surprising to roughly no one, Virgin America announced service from its hub in San Francisco to Honolulu and Maui starting at the end of 2015. Each destination will see daily service on a new Airbus A320 delivered with winglets to allow the planes the necessary range to make it to the islands without significant payload restrictions. The Honolulu flight will be a daytime trip while the Maui flight will be a redeye four days per week and a daytime trip the other three days.
The operations will also require Virgin America to receive ETOPS certification for the overwater flights, something the company is working with the FAA on and expects to have in place by the time the new aircraft are delivered and the routes are ready to launch.
The launch does put Virgin America squarely in the lead as the best premium cabin offered consistently on west coast to Hawaii flights by an airline, which may help it compete well in the market. There is some premium demand there and for trips of that duration the Virgin America first class product will beat out Hawaiian, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines on a consistent basis (save the one UA widebody daily which is much less consistent).
Also of interest to me in the announcement is the number of different ways the company refers to itself and its customers. At various points there are references to:
- Silicon Valley’s Airline
- the only California-based airline
- a loyal following of Bay Area-based business travelers
- our ‘work-hard/play-hard’ frequent flyers
And, perhaps most strange, is the suggestion that the Governor of Hawaii had veto rights over the flights:
In a private call last month, Cush received permission from Hawai‘i Governor David Ige to bring Virgin America’s new flight service to the state.
Not surprising at all that Hawaii was the next destination now that the company will have planes which can get there.
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While on the opposite end of the spectrum and compass heading, Air Asia X will inaugurate KUL-OSA-HNL service in November 2015. Wonder if Fernandes dropped a dime on Governor Ige and asked for rights?
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