Virgin America wins tentative approval
for SFO-based airline
United Airlines union not happy with decision
Virgin America CEO Fred Reid, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
and Mayor Gavin Newsom, have a lot to be bubbly about as Virgin
America wins tentative approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation
for SFO-based operations.
However, not everyone is happy with the decision.
(file photos, 10/11/6)
By Ari Burack, Bay City News Service
March 21, 2007
Virgin America's plan
to establish a U.S. airline based at San Francisco International
Airport moved forward Tuesday with an announcement of tentative
approval of the airline's plans by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
A department spokesman announced that Virgin America's proposed
ownership and management changes to reduce its dependence on investors
from the United Kingdom and distance itself from its parent company
The Virgin Group would put the airline in compliance with a federal
law requiring that an airline show it is controlled by U.S. citizens.
There is an approximately 30-day period during which objections
to the bid can be filed and responses to any objections can be
made. The DOT would "aim to make a final decision as soon
as possible after that," department spokesman Bill Mosley
The airline also needs to secure approval from the Federal Aviation
Administration before it can begin operations, Mosley said.
"We worked very hard to address the Department's initial
concerns," Virgin America CEO Fred Reid said in a prepared
statement. "We plan to meet with our shareholders immediately
to address the Department's proposed conditions."
Virgin America CEO Fred Reid
Airline spokesman Gareth Edmondson-Jones said the airline hopes
to launch service from SFO in mid-summer, initially to New York's
John F. Kennedy Airport. Service to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San
Diego and Washington D.C. could begin within months after that,
"Once finalized, this decision will create more jobs, service
and competition for U.S. travelers," Edmondson-Jones said.
According to SFO spokesman Mike McCarron, if approved, Virgin
America would be the first major airline to be headquartered at
SFO and in all of California.
The airline's SFO hub is expected to bring approximately 2,000
new jobs for airline personnel at the airport, McCarron said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement this morning applauding
the tentative decision, calling it "a historic opportunity
to bring innovative service and competition to consumers here
and elsewhere in the country," Schwarzenegger said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
"I look forward to having them bring new jobs, low fares
and more service to our state," he added.
However, a union representing 17,000 United Airlines flight attendants
condemned the DOT ruling as caving in to "a massive public
relations campaign" by Virgin America that would jeopardize
the American airline industry.
The campaign "heralded immediate consumer benefits and job
creation, but when the smoke and mirrors are cleared these benefits
are ambiguous, tenuous and will be short lived at best,"
United Airlines Flight Attendants President Greg Davidowitch said
in a statement.
CEO Fred Reid and Virgin America employees recently took to the
streets of downtown San Francisco with a splashy Valentine's Day
"Let VA Fly" event, promoting the airline with red T
shirt and Frisbee give-aways and bearing a signed online petition
of support for its DOT approval.
That Virgin America's DOT application conforms to U.S. law "is
yet another corporate backed sham supported by the Bush Administration
and set to enrich a few at the cost of many, including passengers
and our communities," Davidowitch said.
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