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Virgin America to take delivery of 6 A320s in the first half of 2012 (and other news) – Bangalore Aviation

Virgin America to take delivery of 6 A320s in the first half of 2012 (and other news)

Late last week, San Francisco based Virgin America announced their latest destination, Philadelphia, which will be served from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Flights will begin in April with two daily flights from LA and one from San Francisco, and will increase to 3 and two daily flights respectively.

Schedules for the new routes are as follow: (via airlineroute)

Los Angeles – Philadelphia

VX124 LAX1055 – 1900PHL 320 Daily
VX126 LAX1540 – 2355PHL 320 Daily
VX130 LAX2135 – 0545+1PHL 320 Daily

VX121 PHL0700 – 0955LAX 320 Daily
VX125 PHL1125 – 1425LAX 320 Daily
VX127 PHL2005 – 2255LAX 320 Daily

San Francisco – Philadelphia

VX136 SFO0830 – 1655PHL 320 Daily
VX144 SFO2300 – 0725+1PHL 320 Daily

VX137 PHL0835 – 1155SFO 320 Daily
VX141 PHL1750 – 2110SFO 320 Daily

The routes will be operating from common usage gates in Philadelphia’s terminal E.

We spoke with Virgin America’s media team regarding the new route and some other occurrences at the airline.

Last year, Virgin America CEO David Cush told me in an interview that their A320s occasionally struggle to make East Coast- West Coast (US) flights nonstop, necessitating the A319s in their fleet. Thus I was surprised to see that Philadelphia was scheduled to be served solely with Airbus A320s. However, Virgin America spokesperson Abby Lunardini stated that there were “No restrictions for PHL, so right now [the flight is] operating on 320s.” However, it remains to be seen whether or not the A320s will make this route all the time next winter, and Lunardini did mention that, ” as with other East Coast routes, we [can] operate a mix of A319s and A320s on the route depending on time of year flying.”

I was also interested to ask about Virgin America’s growth plans. Since its inception in 2007, Virgin America has been the fastest growing US airline, with annual capacity increases hovering around 30%. A figure in the ballpark of 30% for Virgin America was quoted in 2011 by Aviation Week, however, the carrier will be taking delivery of six A320s in the first half of 2012 – which will be the total number of aircraft that they take new delivery of this year. 6 new planes would likely necessitate increased utilization of current aircraft to meet capacity targets. Virgin America neglected to provide specific capacity guidance for 2012.

Virgin America had a few teething problems problems with their reservation systems earlier this month, after switching from an upstart reservations system back to industry leader Sabre. We expect this move to improve their visibility amongst business travelers. However, the switch did result in a few customer service issues for Virgin America passengers; with reduced website functionality and unsatisfactory call center performance.

To their credit, Virgin America owned up to the issues when questioned, and they believe that the worst of the problems are now behind them.

Here is what Lunardini had to say on the issue of the reservation systems:

Yes, the overwhelming majority of web issues have been resolved – and bookings are operating normally. By way of further background,reservations systems switches of this scale are a once in a lifetime event for an airline, involving the knife-edge migration of millions of records during live operations. Prior to the switch, we additionally staffed our operation, thinned our flight schedules and communicated to guests in advance about the potential impacts. Although our airports ran on time and without related cancellations, as an airline that prides itself on its guest service –we never like to see guests inconvenienced for any reason, including the web errors a sub-set of guests were encountering (ability to change/cancel online,check-in, view Elevate points and other web services) as well as unacceptably long call hold times. We apologized to impacted guests and offered 5000 Elevate points for those guests most impacted.

We made the switch to Sabre because of our growth. We needed to move to an industry standard system that would accommodate our growth, allow us to expand our code-share/interline ability and give guests and teammates better tools.

All told, some interesting news from San Francisco. Readers, do you have a question or thought about Virgin America? Please do let us know via a comment below.

About Vinay Bhaskara

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