Premium bookings at Virgin America are remaining steady during the economic downturn as some travellers who previously used private aircraft are transitioning back to commercial flights.
Carrier CEO David Cush in an interview with ATI says pricing for Virgin America's first class tickets is attractive to customers since it is roughly half of what other network carriers charge. He also says bookings for "Main Cabin Select" offering introduced last year are also holding up. Main Cabin Select combines some elements of first class and economy, including extra legroom, at a lower ticket.
Cush highlights a trend of passengers that previously participated in fractional ownership operations opting for commercial travel as the uncertainty surrounding the economy shows no sign of abating.
Strong revenue for Virgin America in December was followed by what Cush hopes is an aberration in January. Similar to sentiments expressed by other airlines, Cush says demand in January was soft.
But the chief executive sees improvements in February in March, and explains bookings for new flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco that debut 12 February to Boston are strong. The city is Virgin America's "best booked" market for the February through April timeframe, he says.
Overall trends at Virgin America show the booking curves for leisure customers moving closer to the booking date, with the reverse occurring for business passengers that are booking two-to-three weeks in advance rather than two-to-three days prior to travel.
Boston and Orange County, which becomes part of Virgin America's offerings on 30 April, are the only new markets the carrier plans to offer in 2009. Virgin America and Southwest Airlines will compete directly on flights from Orange County to San Francisco once Southwest inaugurates flights in the market on 9 May.
Virgin America is taking delivery of two Airbus A320 family aircraft during the first quarter. The carrier's fleet plan is flexible after this year as Cush says two aircraft currently flown in charter operations should become available in 2010. If that happens the carrier is likely to introduce new markets next year.
The airline's next delivery from Airbus is scheduled for 2011.
Source: Air Transport Intelligence news