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Virgin America looks to win U.S. approval

Wannabe startup airline Virgin America, which was rebuffed by federal regulators late last year in its initial bid to earn clearance to begin operations, is changing its ownership mix in hopes of winning government approval.

The airline has “changed agreements with minority owner Richard Branson’s Virgin Group in an effort to meet U.S. ownership requirements,” reports Bloomberg News (via The Los Angeles Times).

The airline hopes this move will make it acceptable to U.S. regulators, who first denied the would-be carrier’s operating license for having too much of a foreign ownership stake. Skeptics (OK, me) have maintained all along that the real issue here is not foreign ownership so much as it is fear of competition from a certain cowardly domestic carrier and its ilk.

And why wouldn’t the U.S. airlines be afraid? If I were the kind of airline that thought eliminating free pretzels on domestic flights was a winning idea, I certainly wouldn’t want to see another carrier enter the fray promising broadband access, nine-inch seatback TVs, interactive games, movies on demand, and a touch screen to order in-flight food.

Then again, as a traveler I sure would welcome it.

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