Virgin America seeks Toronto rights, preps for Orlando launch

Washington DC
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Virgin America seeks to inaugurate its first international service - Toronto - as it reworks its route network this summer.

Today the carrier is submitting to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) its request for daily Canadian service from San Francisco and Los Angeles starting as early as June.

The announcement does not come as a surprise as airline chief David Cush told ATI in August 2009 that the carrier was studying destinations best-suited to its core Los Angeles and San Francisco markets including Toronto, Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas.

In addition, Virgin America will enter its second Florida destination with daily service to Orlando from San Francisco and Los Angeles from 19 August. Orlando operations come after Virgin America launched Fort Lauderdale flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles in November 2009.

Virgin America is freeing aircraft to "immediately launch service into the more lucrative Orlando and Toronto long-haul markets", the carrier says in statement, by exiting John Wayne airport in suburban Los Angeles on 26 May.

The Orange County retreat comes just over a year after Virgin America started five daily flights to John Wayne airport from San Francisco ahead of rival Southwest Airline's launch of the same city pair with five daily frequencies.

Besides abandoning that competitive city pair, more network changes are likely as the carrier says it aims to announce at least three more new destinations in 2010.

While the carrier did not identify the forthcoming routes, Cush told ATI in December 2009 that Virgin America was targeting its long-awaited launch from Chicago O'Hare International airport for May or June of this year. The airline had shelved its plans to launch O'Hare links in 2008 due to its inability to obtain gates at the airport.

Regarding its forthcoming operations, Virgin America will face competition from United Airlines and Air Canada between San Francisco and Toronto while American Airlines and Air Canada serve Los Angeles-Toronto, schedules in Innovata show.

American, United and Delta Air Lines also fly from Los Angeles to Orlando while United connects San Francisco and Orlando, according to Innovata.

Virgin America plans to take delivery of six Airbus narrowbodies this year, followed by three aircraft during the first quarter of 2011.