The US Department of Transportation has cleared Virgin America Airlines to launch services this summer but has kept to its insistence that chief executive Fred Reid step down within six months from when the start-up receives final certification

The San Francisco-based carrier will launch services to New York JFK after it wins final technical approvals from the FAA. It hopes to start selling tickets in June or July.

Virgin America plans to begin a service from San Francisco to Washington Dulles within nine months of launch and add as many as 10 more routes within its first year.

Reid, who offered in January to step down if it resulted in DoT approval of Virgin America's long-standing application, says: "This has been quite a journey but I'm truly happy that we will be able to launch our airline."

The DoT initially gave Reid 90 days following final certification to step down, but in its final ruling in May decided to give him six months.

Virgin Atlantic Airways may increase its international service at San Francisco to take advantage of the domestic feed offered by the affiliate. However, Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson has reduced his interest in and control of Virgin America in response to DoT demands.

Virgin America continues to win public attention with such steps as a widely publicised aircraft-naming contest. It will call some of its Airbus A320s "Unicorn Chaser" and "Chic Mobile". Virgin America's first aircraft has been named "Jefferson Airplane" in a reference to the rock band that was associated with San Francisco.

Source: Airline Business