Virgin America connects US 'silicon' centres with Austin flights

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Virgin America launched its latest flight to a "silicon" city with the beginning of service between San Francisco and Austin, Texas, on 21 May, two cities that Virgin says are linked by the technology industry.

Virgin's vice-president of marketing Luanne Calvert says that the airline's corporate customers in the Silicon Valley area of the Bay Area had requested that Virgin begin service to Austin, which is known in the technology industry as "Silicon Hills".

Those corporate customers, many of which have growing operations in Austin, include tech giants like Google, Apple, Twitter and Facebook, she says.

Austin is also home to a number of burgeoning technology companies and is ripe with venture capitalists eager to invest in start-up firms, Calvert adds.

Calvert made her comments to Flightglobal onboard the airline's launch flight to Austin.

She says that the route, which is one of the last new destinations Virgin will add to its map for this year, accomplishes the airline's goal of connecting the San Francisco area with the nation's top technology hubs.

She notes that Virgin already flies to tech-heavy destinations, including Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Jose and Washington DC.

Virgin competes with United Airlines on the San Francisco-Austin route, which operates up to six daily weekday flights on the route.

JetBlue Airways also flies from San Francisco to Austin twice daily.

After it launches seasonal flights from San Francisco to Anchorage, Alaska, on 6 June, Virgin will not add another destinations to its route map this year, but will instead focus on letting existing routes develop, the airline's chief executive David Cush has said.

Virgin recently came to the end of two-year rapid-growth period during which it doubled its fleet to 53 Airbus A320 family aircraft. The airline does not plan to take additional aircraft until 2015.

Cush has predicted in recent weeks that slower growth will result in Virgin earning its first full-year profits in 2013.