Much-anticipated Virgin America began selling tickets early this morning. The airline will take to the skies on August 8 with service between San Francisco and Los Angeles and New York's JFK. Prices start at $44 each-way between San Francisco and Los Angles and $139 each-way between Los Angeles and New York.
When I tested Virgin's booking system, I was able to find the lowest fares and the system proved fairly easy to use. A quick comparison search showed Virgin America's fares to be the lowest available in August for both the San Francisco/Los Angeles and New York/San Francisco routes.
Virgin America will be launching several other routes later in the year. Start dates and one-way fares include:
- $139 between New York (JFK) and Los Angeles beginning August 29
- $129 between San Francisco and Washington (Dulles) beginning September 26
- $44 between San Francisco and Las Vegas beginning October 10
- $129 between Los Angeles and Washington (Dulles) beginning October 24
The airline is selling first-class fares for $149 each way between San Francisco and Los Angeles and $389 between New York and San Francisco or Los Angeles. These first-class prices are extremely affordable compared to other airlines, especially considering that Virgin's first-class seating is touted as being closer to international business class than domestic first class. Seats have a 55-inch pitch, a built-in massage function, and an in-flight entertainment console.
Coach seats will be equipped with an entertainment screen with which you can watch TV, listen to MP3s, or screen pay-per-view movies. The main cabin will also have a self-service minibar and you'll be able to order fresh food, most likely for a fee.
Given the wretched state of U.S. air travel, it's quite welcome to see an airline trying to offer both low-cost fares and to comfort and style to domestic fliers. I'll be interested to see how other airlines react to their unconventional new competitor.