Virgin America Inc., the low-fare airline partly owned by U.K. billionaire Richard Branson, plans to add flights to Chicago, Atlanta and Houston next year if it can secure gates in those U.S. cities.
Discussions with Chicago over gates at O’Hare airport, the nation’s second-busiest, have “moved forward” and may be resolved by year’s end, David Cush, chief executive officer of Virgin America, said yesterday in a telephone interview.
Virgin America wants to lease two gates in O’Hare’s Concourse L inside Terminal 3 that are now controlled by Delta Air Lines Inc., he said. The closely held carrier, based in Burlingame, California, has been trying to enter O’Hare for more than three years.
“If we can make progress in the next 60 days, I think you’ll see Virgin America in Chicago in April,” Cush said. “The city is making good progress in taking control of that concourse. We wish them success because we want in.”
Other cities under consideration for next year are Atlanta, the world’s busiest airport and fortress hub of Delta; Houston, a hub for United Continental Holdings Inc., which surpassed Delta as the world’s largest carrier this year when United Airlines and Continental Airlines merged; and Philadelphia, a hub for US Airways Group Inc.
Virgin America will learn from initiating service to Dallas-Fort Worth airport, the hometown hub of AMR Corp.’s American Airlines, and use those findings to inform its decisions on the other venues dominated by competitors, Cush said.
First Net Income
Early bookings in Dallas are “quite strong” and “on par or exceeding the rest of the network,” he said.
Also today, the carrier posted the first net income in its three-year history, earning $7.48 million for the three months ended Sept. 30. That compares with a net loss of $5.94 million a year earlier. Revenue rose 28 percent to $202 million.
Virgin America is benefiting from higher fares and increased demand for travel as the U.S. economy improves. The carrier plans to buy 40 more planes as it adds routes to new cities including Cancun, Mexico.
The airline, which started service in August 2007, has a fleet of 28 Airbus SAS A320 jets and flies to cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Seattle, Washington, New York’s John F. Kennedy airport and Boston.