Low-fare carrier Virgin America announced today its plans to seek government approval to add service to Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The Chicago Tribune reports that the airline plans to begin its service in November with four flights from both Los Angeles and San Francisco. O’Hare is notoriously congested and prone to delays, but will open a new runway in November that will allow the airport to handle more flights.
American and United currently have a stronghold over O’Hare, which Virgin America acknowledged in its press release: “With legacy airlines representing 99 percent of the domestic departures at O’Hare, and low-cost airlines only representing one percent, Virgin America intends to add some healthy competition to the market.” According to Robert Mann, an airline consultant interviewed for the Tribune article, low-fare carriers typically don’t engage in head-to-head battles with established legacy carriers when first entering a market, and also don’t often add so many flights at once.
If Virgin America is granted permission to add Chicago service, the “Virgin America Effect” could potentially lower fares between California and Chicago, a welcome reprieve from high fares for travelers flying those routes.