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Virgin America Puts Off Plans For Chicago Route

Posted in Airline News, Virgin AtlanticNo comments

Virgin America said Friday it cannot launch service to Chicago early next year as it hoped to do because it was unable to acquire gate space from the major airlines that serve O’Hare International Airport.

David Cush, the president and chief executive officer of Virgin America, said Chicago remains at the top of the airline’s wish list for expansion cities, but another city will be announced as the eighth destination for the carrier in the coming days.

Virgin America negotiated with the major legacy airlines that serve O’Hare but was unable to negotiate a lease to meet “the time frame we were hoping for,” said Abby Lunardini, a spokeswoman for the airline.

The legacy airlines control the gates and a lease could not be negotiated even despite the recent cuts in airline capacity, said Cush. Virgin America, based in Burlingame, launched in August 2007 and serves San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Cush said Chicago Mayor Richard Daily and other officials had been helpful in the airline’s effort to bring Virgin America service to Chicago and another attempt will be made.

“When more airlines compete, consumers win with better service and lower fares,” said Cush. “The industry, the citizens of Chicago and travelers at other congested airports like Newark and John F. Kennedy deserve no less.”

Virgin America will become the anchor tenant at San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 2 (the former international terminal) after its renovation is complete in late 2010. It currently operates out of the new international terminal.

In February, Virgin America sought authority to fly from Los Angeles to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, but the Department of Transportation awarded the route to United Airlines, with Delta Air Lines the backup.

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