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Virgin America To Fly Boston-California Routes

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The ambitious and expanding airline Virgin America, the only U.S. carrier based here in the Bay Area, said today it will begin service from California to Boston in February.

There will be two daily round-trip flights between San Francisco and Boston and three round trips between Los Angeles and Boston, the airline said.

The new service was announced just days after Virgin America said it was disappointed it could not reach an agreement with the major legacy airlines that serve Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to sublease gate space, even with a 10 percent reduction in airline capacity due to the economic crisis. There are 178 gates at O’Hare, said Karen Pride, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation. Of those, 156 are exclusive-use gates with leases that run through 2018. There are 22 common-use gates, 21 of which are in the international terminal, she said.

United Airlines dominates the Boston-San Francisco route, but Virgin America will have no low-fare competition – although more expensive seats are available. One-way fares will start at $149 in the main cabin; $570 in premium service; and $999 in the first-class cabin.

“Virgin America will get market share from United, which has not invested in its product,” said Henry Harteveldt, an airline analyst at Forrester Research. He added, “Virgin America is very fresh. It appeals to the next generation of air traveler with use of technology,” including in-flight Internet service by the second quarter of 2009. “That will resonate with that base of customers,” said Harteveldt.

San Francisco and Boston are both technology hubs, noted Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. “This new service links two global leaders in the innovative economy,” he said. “Given the challenging national economy, this is an important endorsement of the economic power of Massachusetts.”

Boston becomes the eighth city in the network of the Burlingame-based airline. Virgin America, which launched in August 2007, currently serves San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, Seattle and Washington.

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