Alaska Air resumes assault on Virgin America status

Washington DC
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Alaska Airlines seeks to reopen the question of Virgin America's US citizenship status.

Seattle-based Alaska asks the Transportation Department to reopen its proceeding in which Virgin modified its ownership and capital structure to comply with US law that requires an air carrier to be 75% owned by and effectively controlled by US citizens.

The carrier cites media reports that US investors may sell their shares back to the UK-based Virgin group.

"The DOT left open the issue of ongoing compliance and we've been concerned for some time," says Glenn Johnson, Alaska's chief financial officer. "The issue needs an on-the record review," he said. Alaska's chapter of ALPA supports the petition.

Johnson says that Virgin's recent release of its financial performance statistics was not the motivating factor for Alaska's petition but says that media reports surrounding Virgin's fight to keep the data secret had spurred numerous news reports.

Virgin dismisses the Alaska move as "a meritless petition. We are a US-owned and -controlled airline that is in full compliance with the law and all DOT regulations. Nothing has changed in our ownership structure, which was approved by the DOT," adds Virgin America, based in Burlingame, a San Francisco suburb. The two airlines compete vigorously on the West Coast and on intra-California routes, and Virgin recently began service to Seattle.

Separately, Virgin America launched its Boston Logan flights from Los Angeles on Tuesday.