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Company Watch - Virgin Group.

Nov 23, 2008

British Airways serves regular meals in its premium-economy cabin and boards premium-economy passengers with coach customers. Virgin offers a separate check-in area for premium-economy passengers, boards them along with business-class customers and offers food service that is upgraded from coach, but is nowhere near as elaborate as its "Upper Class" business cabin. Both airlines have separate toilets reserved for premium-economy customers, but on recent flights coach customers were using them, too. Nov 18, 2008

With its Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi service ready to go airborne over San Francisco on Saturday, Virgin America will team with YouTube for a launch party demonstration in which Virgin hopes to stream a live video feed to the crowd attending the YouTube Live concert in the city below. Virgin will begin actual commercial service on its single Wi-Fi enabled plane on Monday with the goal of offering Gogo on its entire fleet by the second quarter of next year. Nov 20, 2008

Virgin America, the California-based airline, today announced the launch of Gogo(r) Inflight Internet, via the first air-to-ground video stream during YouTube Live -- YouTube's first official real-world user event on Nov. 22. The carrier's first Wi-Fi enabled plane will circle the skies above San Francisco during the event and a segment of the YouTube live show will be streamed from 35,000 feet to an audience on the ground and on-line. The YouTube Live event flight will serve as the beta launch of the Gogo(r) Inflight Internet service on Virgin America. Launching with one Wi-Fi enabled aircraft available to guests from Nov. 24 on, the airline will be the first U.S. carrier to offer inflight internet fleet-wide by the second quarter of 2009. The beta flight will feature a Wi-Fi lounge outfitted with HP ultra-portable notebooks. As the exclusive PC vendor for the carrier's beta Wi-Fi flight, HP will provide a selection of lightweight, powerful and fashion-forward notebooks to keep users connected from air to ground. Flight guests will score customized Skullcandy headsets and Blue Microphone's Snowflake, the world's first portable USB mic. In addition to YouTube stars, 30 Rock's Keith Powell will be part of the show and film a segment inflight for his web mini-series with co-star Katrina Bowden. After the flight, guests will be whisked to the YouTube Live event in progress at Fort Mason. Nov 18, 2008

Virgin America is reminding passengers that there is still time to grab a seat on its flights for holiday travel. With no advance purchase requirement, the airline is offering guests the opportunity to fly in high style on its upscale, mood-lit new aircraft with low fares for the holiday season. The holiday travel period is traditionally defined as the Friday before Thanksgiving holiday to the Sunday after -- this year Nov. 21 to Nov 30. During this time Virgin America will operate more than 750 flights. The new airline expects to carry 85,000 guests during this period, a 121 percent increase in traffic from the previous year. Now serving seven cities and with new menu items and shaken cocktails onboard for fall, Virgin America offers guests amenities unrivalled in the U.S. skies and boasts the youngest fleet in the U.S. The aircraft feature power outlets near every seat and the most advanced in-flight entertainment in the U.S. The features allow passengers to control their own experience, with a food ordering system, 30 films, seat-to-seat chat, the ability to create a play-list from 3,000 MP3s, videogames, and live TV -- all accessed via seatback touch-screen or remote control. For more information, visit www.virginamerica.com. Nov 17, 2008

Virgin's 'premium economy' class have wider seats, a separate check-in area and upgraded food. A dozen international airlines flying to the U.S., including British Airways PLC, Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., All Nippon Airways Co. and Scandinavian Airlines System, now offer extra legroom, wider seats and seats that recline lower in premium economy cabins for a few hundred dollars more than coach tickets. Nov 18, 2008

Premium economy was born amid recession in 1992 when Virgin wanted to create something for business travelers no longer able to buy seats in its "Upper Class" business-cabin. This time around, Mr. Rossi says, many companies are purchasing more premium-economy seats, but mixing cabins so that travelers get "Upper Class" lie-flat beds on overnight flights to London from the U.S., then ride home on daylight flights in premium economy. Nov 18, 2008

Virgin Atlantic currently has premium-economy seats on sale as low as $854 round-trip, including taxes and fuel surcharges, between New York and London, and $840 between Boston and London. Coach seats are as low as $431 round-trip. Last-minute travelers may see a smaller difference: Unrestricted coach tickets on British Airways between New York and London are priced only $62 less than unrestricted premium-economy seats, which British Airways labels "World Traveller Plus." Nov 18, 2008

Virgin's premium-economy seats are 21 inches wide; British Airways' only 18.5 inches; and Japan Airlines' only 18 inches. Most airlines put premium-economy seats in 38 inches of space length-wise (called "seat pitch"), compared with 31 or 32 inches in coach cabins. "Open Skies," the British Airways unit that flies from New York to Paris and Amsterdam, offers 52 inches of seat pitch in its premium-economy cabin. By comparison, American has first-class seats in its MD-80 aircraft that are 19.5 inches wide and have 39 inches of seat pitch; 737s at Continental Airlines Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc. have 38 inches of seat pitch in first class and seats about 20.5 inches wide. Nov 18, 2008

U.S. airlines with overseas routes appear in no hurry to offer the sort of "premium economy" cabin that Virgin Atlantic Airways calls its "most profitable product." Virgin, British Airways, All Nippon Airways and Qantas Airways are among the international carriers touting extra room, better meals and other perks for thousands of dollars less than the cost of a business-class ticket. The airlines say premium economy seats are selling especially well as corporate travel departments look to cut costs. Nov 18, 2008

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Publication:AirGuide Business
Date:Nov 24, 2008
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