Andrea -- and, from the sound of it, every other DFW media member in need of a midweek field trip to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport -- is out on the tarmac at this very moment awaiting a chitchat with Richard Branson upon Virgin America's DFW debut today. The wingding at the airport -- complete with barbecue and livestock, how Texas! -- is but one bit of a daylong shindig culminating with a "secret performance" by Willie Nelson at the Winspear tonight. (How "secret" is a performance headlined in a press release?)
The whole announcement follows. But in it, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert says, yet again, he's very excited about Dallas losing its Virgin virginity: "Virgin America at DFW Airport offers travelers a different choice -- and when more airlines compete, business and leisure travelers tend to win with lower fares and better service. We welcome Virgin America and its unique approach to airline service and look forward to a long and productive partnership." To which Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief adds: "Our region's incredible growth over the past decade makes it an important expansion market for Virgin America. Local travelers will be pleased to hear the news about this fun new airline option."
On the other side, some mazel tovs from Governor Rick Perry too. Now jump, but mind the cow pies.
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Virgin America LANDS in DALLAS-FORT WORTH & CELEBRATES WITH A Secret PERFORMANCE BY WILLIE NELSON
Airline Brings Stylish New Service to Virgin Territory: First Flight Welcomed Today at Red Carpet BBQ on the Tarmac
Tonight Sir Richard Stands Up For a Good Time + a Good Cause: Party at the Dallas Opera House to Feature the Legendary Texas Outlaw
San Francisco - December 1, 2010 - Virgin America, the California-based domestic airline, today celebrates the launch of its new upscale, low fare service to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) - the twelfth airport in its growing network and first mid-continent destination. Known for its stylish design and innovative amenities, Virgin America is injecting new airline competition into DFW, with daily nonstop flights between DFW and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) starting today, and daily nonstop flights between DFW and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) starting December 6, 2010. Today, the airline marks its inaugural LAX-DFW flight with a Texas-sized welcome for its first guests on the DFW tarmac. Tonight, Virgin America's Lone Star Launch Party will turn the Dallas Opera on its head for a good cause, with a secret musical performance by the legendary ten-time Grammy award winner - Willie Nelson.
For its Texas launch, Virgin America teamed up with Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) via the "Stand Up Dallas-Fort Worth" digital campaign, which urged flyers in its newest market to stand up for a good time and a good cause by tapping their social networks. Those who tapped the largest network of donors to give to SU2C's groundbreaking cancer research funds scored a spot at the launch party and the airline matched donations dollar for dollar. Tonight, Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson opens the Winspear Opera House to fellow rabble-rousers and do-gooders for an once-in-a-lifetime launch party and performance: a private show with Willie Nelson & Family. An American icon, Willie Nelson has an epic discography that transcends genres and generations. Nelson defined country music's outlaw movement and will help stand up for a good cause by performing his favorites for the "Virgin" crowd. Nelson is a recipient of the Grammys' Lifetime Achievement Award. His latest album, Country Music, produced by T-Bone Burnett, was released this spring to wide acclaim.
"With touch-screen entertainment offering live TV, movies and hundreds of entertainment choices and new aircraft that look like nothing else in the skies, we think our service will be a breath of fresh air for Dallas-Fort Worth travelers," said Virgin America President and CEO David Cush. "Before today, flyers along the routes had very little choice. A little healthy competition is always a good thing - and we hope our flights can bring some style and fun back to flying."
Earlier today, Virgin America's DFW inaugural flight guests were whisked from LAX to DFW under the airline's signature mood-lit cabins. The first Virgin America Airbus A320 aircraft received a red carpet welcome with a Virgin twist - an Eddy Deen & Company BBQ on the arrival tarmac with Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, DFW CEO Jeff Fegan and Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson. The flight also enjoyed a uniquely Fort Worth receiving line with "heavy-hitters" from the Fort Worth longhorn herd welcoming the airline known for service that is very different from the typical domestic airline "cattle car."
"Virgin America at DFW Airport offers travelers a different choice - and when more airlines compete, business and leisure travelers tend to win with lower fares and better service," said Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert. "We welcome Virgin America and its unique approach to airline service and look forward to a long and productive partnership."
"Our region's incredible growth over the past decade makes it an important expansion market for Virgin America. Local travelers will be pleased to hear the news about this fun new airline option," said Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief. "With typical Fort Worth flair, we are proud to welcome Virgin America as a new member of our North Texas family."
Virgin America offers outstanding guest service and beautifully designed cabins with a host of high-tech amenities and entertainment choices at every seat. The airline's Red™ touch-screen entertainment platform offers 30 films, live TV, Google maps, videogames, seat-to-seat chat, music videos, a 3000 MP3 catalog (and the ability to build a custom play-list in-flight), a first-of-its-kind digital Shop section and an on-demand menu -- so guests can order a cocktail or meal right from their seatback any time during a flight. In May 2009, the carrier became the first airline to offer WiFi on every flight. Since its launch, Virgin America has swept the major reader-based awards, including "Best Domestic Airline" in Condé Nast Traveler 2008, 2009 and 2010 Readers' Choice Awards and in Travel + Leisure's 2008, 2009 and 2010 World's Best Awards.
"Ending cancer is going to require a grassroots effort," said Laura Ziskin, one of the Stand Up To Cancer co-founders. "We need for people all over the country to believe that curing cancer is doable. In typical Virgin fashion, this airline likes to stand up for a good cause and a good time. The fact that guests can learn about our researchers' work and donate onboard is a first for us. We're grateful to Sir Richard Branson, Willie Nelson and everyone at Virgin America for partnering on a unique campaign and launch event that has inspired countless new recruits in Texas to stand up with us," she said.
As SU2C's Official Domestic Airline partner, Virgin America has pledged to support SU2C's mission by driving awareness and funding for lifesaving cancer research. On Virgin America, travelers can join the SU2C movement at 35,000 feet via the Red platform. Travelers can visit Red's Shop section, choose a donation, swipe a credit card and join the fight to bring an end to cancer - right from their seat. 100% of the funds raised via the Stand Up Dallas-Fort Worth campaign and onboard go directly to cancer research. The Virgin America-SU2C partnership kicked off this fall, just as SU2C returned to TV for a star-studded show simultaneously aired on all networks. The show combined entertainment with an appeal to build support for cancer research and included an appearance by a Virgin America aircraft and Sir Richard Branson.
Virgin America's LAX-DFW and SFO-DFW fares start from $129, restrictions, taxes and fees apply.*
"Texas' status as a national economic leader and diverse business hub has attracted the attention of companies all over the country and all over the world," said Texas Governor Rick Perry. "Virgin America's entrance into the DFW market gives Texas consumers another strong and innovative option for travel to California and beyond, while also making it easier for Californians to do business and see the sights in the Lone Star State."
"Virgin America's decision to launch service from DFW Airport to two major markets is a testament to the strength and vitality of the North Texas region," said Jeff Fegan, CEO of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. "Our passengers will see a big benefit from the increased competition and the new Virgin America service. Their launch events are reflective of their brand - they are definitely entering the market in a big way and will offer travelers a distinctive choice."
Virgin America continues to experience significant growth with the addition of four destinations in 2010. In July 2010, the airline placed one of the year's single largest aircraft orders at the Farnborough International Airshow - announcing plans to order up to 60 new aircraft. The airline's fleet is projected to grow by two-thirds by the end of 2011 and will triple in size by 2016. Since its 2007 launch, Virgin America has created 1,700 new jobs and welcomed more than 10 million guests. Virgin America flies to San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., Seattle, Las Vegas, San Diego, Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Toronto, Orlando, Dallas-Fort Worth (starting from Los Angeles today and from San Francisco on December 6, 2010), Los Cabos** (starting December 16, 2010) and Cancun** (starting January 19, 2011).