Company Watch - Virgin Group.
Virgin America Awarded Nonstop Flight Service From The Bay Area To Washington National. Virgin America, the only major airline headquartered in California, received U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) approval today to launch one daily nonstop flight between its home base of San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). Virgin America plans to initiate the new service later this summer, subject to finalizing flight schedule times with DOT. "We are pleased to have the opportunity to bring our unique brand of service to this underserved route [ETH] and to better connect one of the world's leading economies to our nation's capital," said David Cush, President and CEO of Virgin America. "Until this year, San Francisco has been the largest travel market in the nation previously without nonstop flights to DCA, and local travelers and businesses deserved better. Thanks to the outpouring of community support for our application from Bay Area elected officials, civic groups and business organizations and the DOT's decision today, we will finally be able to provide local flyers and businesses with more choice and meaningful low fare competition." The new route became available following the enactment of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 which authorized the DOT to award a limited number of new flights to U.S. domestic airports located beyond DCA's 1,250-mile "perimeter limit." Multiple carriers filed competing proposals for new DCA services earlier this year for the valuable "beyond perimeter" slots that allow carriers to fly nonstop to cities more than 1,250 miles from DCA. Most of the prior "beyond perimeter" awards had been made to non-California airports. Smaller markets awarded DCA flights in the past include: Denver (four frequencies), Seattle (two frequencies) and Phoenix (three frequencies). Despite its size and the importance of Northern California's innovation-based technology sector to the national economy, prior to this year the Bay Area never had nonstop service to DCA. As a result, local consumers and businesses suffered for decades with higher fares and limited choices [ETH] either flying to Washington Dulles or taking one-stop connecting flights when traveling to downtown Washington, D.C. With fleetwide WiFi, power outlets, touch-screen live entertainment and new aircraft with three classes of service, Virgin America's business-friendly product has offered a unique new option for local businesses and flyers. Virgin America is one of the few growing airlines in the U.S. In addition to the airline's impact on fares and service, Virgin America's decision to headquarter in California has created thousands of local jobs. Since its launch in 2007, the airline has expanded to 18 new markets and created more than 2,600 new jobs. Virgin America flies to San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C. (Dulles), Seattle, Las Vegas, San Diego, Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Cabos, Cancun, Chicago, Puerto Vallarta, Palm Springs, Philadelphia, Portland (as of June 5, 2012) and Washington Reagan National (as of later this year). May 14, 2012
Virgin America discusses Philadelphia airport plans. Virgin America, which recently began service in Philadelphia, may soon be involved in the city's proposed expansion of Philadelphia International Airport. Airport officials have drafted an expansion plan that would cost $6.4 billion over 13 years, but other carriers have balked at the price tag. "Airports have to think longer-term than sometimes airlines do," said Virgin America CEO David Cush. May 15, 2012
Virgin Atlantic launches onboard mobile phone services. Virgin has become the first British carrier to allow mobile phone calls on its new Airbus A330 aircraft, with plans to extend the service to its Boeing 747s. The carrier says it will have 20 aircraft fitted with the Aeromobile technology by the end of 2012, including Boeing 747s currently undergoing a [pounds sterling]50 million refurbishment program. The carrier recently launched the ability to make and receive mobile phone calls onboard its new three-class Airbus A330 aircraft, which also features VirginOs revamped Upper Class cabin. Passengers in all cabins are able to make and receive phone calls, as well as send and receive text messages, and access email and the internet via GPRS. Greg Dawson, Virgin Atlantic's director of corporate communications, said: OWe have listened to what customers want and connectivity in the air is always on the wish list. Customers will be charged according to their providerOs international roaming rates. But currently agreements have only been signed with O2 and Vodafone, so passengers using other networks cannot use the service. Passengers will not be allowed to make calls during take-off and landing, and US law requires that the service be disabled when aircraft are within 250 miles of its airspace. Virgin originally announced plans to offer mobile phone connectivity in 2010. British Airways offers OnAir mobile phone technology on its Airbus A318 Club World City flights between London City and New York, but phone calls are currently disabled, with only emails and text messages being permitted to be made and received. May 14, 2012
Virgin pulls plug on Nairobi flights. Virgin Atlantic is to stop its flights from Heathrow to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi from September. The carrier, whichElaunched the route in 2007, blamed high fuel prices, increasing UK aviation taxes and low passenger numbers for the decision. Virgin will stop flying on the route on September 24 with the last flight from Heathrow on the previous day. Julie Southern, Virgin AtlanticOs chief commercial officer, said: OWe have taken the difficult decision to withdraw our services between Nairobi and London. ODespite the best efforts of our employees, external factors including the high price of fuel, increasing aviation taxes in the UK and insufficient passenger numbers throughout the past five years have contributed to the decision. OThese are still challenging times for the airline industry and we have to deploy our aircraft to routes with the right level of demand to be financially viable.O Virgin said it would be OsupportingO its Nairobi-based staff through a period of consultation on the future of their jobs. The move will cut the number of African destinations served by Virgin to four: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Lagos and Accra. May 16, 2012
Virgin Atlantic Employee In Paparazzi Probe. Virgin Atlantic said it had launched an investigation over claims a member of staff had tipped off paparazzi about details of flights celebrities had booked with the airline. The employee is accused of passing details of eight high-profile customers including actress Sienna Miller and England football player Ashley Cole to the London-based photographic agency Big Pictures. "The allegations that have been raised are extremely serious and we have launched an immediate investigation," a spokeswoman for the airline said. "The incident that has been alleged concerns eight customers' flights booked in 2010 and we are in contact with all of those people." The Guardian newspaper reported that the employee, who looked after high-profile customers for the airline, had now resigned. It said other celebrities affected included actresses Scarlett Johansson and Gwyneth Paltrow, and singer Robbie Williams. Miller was awarded GB[pounds sterling]53,000 (USD$84,000) in damages from Big Pictures in 2008 over claims of paparazzi harassment. May 15, 2012
Westcon Group, IJS Global and Virgin Atlantic Cargo Make the Trek for Charity. Westcon Group, a value-added distributor of category-leading unified communications, network infrastructure, data center, and security solutions with a global network of specialty resellers, today joined forces with IJS Global and Virgin Atlantic Cargo to make a major bicycle trek for charity. Kicking off yesterday, the team is set to conquer 1,200 km from Paris to Barcelona in support of Help for Heroes and Kidney Health Australia. Team Ride2Give consists of non-professional cyclists from the United Kingdom and Australia training each year for several charity riding events. In 2010, the team partnered with colleagues from around the world to undertake the journey from Sydney to Melbourne across the Australian mountain range. Today, the group is set to ride 1,200 km over a nine-day period. This year, members are raising money for Help for Heroes (H4H) and Kidney Health Australia. H4H is an independent British charity aiding armed forces veterans injured during the course of duty. Kidney Health Australia focuses on improving kidney health outcomes, leading to substantial improvements in quality of life for people with kidney and urinary tract diseases, their families and careers. "The one thing that brings us together is a love for cycling. Ride2Give helps put this passion to good use and lend a hand to those who really need it," said Alyson Kent, Virgin Atlantic Cargo. "While we're all amateur riders, the combination of talent across Virgin Atlantic Cargo, IJS and Westcon is truly amazing. I am honored to be part of this team." Beginning at the center of France, riders are traveling through the French regions of lle-deFrance, Centre, Auvergne and Midi-Pyrenees before crossing into Spain via the Aragon and Catalonia regions. The journey is challenging due to its mountainous terrain and trip duration -- requiring members to cover up to 160 km per day for nine days without a rest day. "The Ride2Give team is a fantastic, caring group of individuals -- all of whom just happen to have a passion for cycling," said Donna Bain, European Human Resources Director, Westcon Group. "After spending a few years on the sidelines, I decided to jump in and use my love of riding to do something good. I'm proud to be working alongside my friends at IJS Global and Virgin Atlantic Cargo to make a difference." May 14, 2012
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