Transportation

As Virgin America Deflowers DFW, A Few Questions, Such As: What's Next? And How?

At this very moment, a fellow Unfair Parker is headed to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to catch a Virgin America flight bound for Los Angeles; looking forward to the in-flight review. But mere weeks after Sir Richard Branson's airline made its Willie Nelson-serenaded DFW bow, BusinessWeek wonders: Will it fly?

Branson and his execs, including ex-AMR honcho Don Carty, are planning an aggressive expansion here and elsewhere. As Andrea noted following her one-on-one: "Branson said that Virgin America out of DFW plans to expand, with 50 new planes on the way, to the East Coast, Canada and Mexico." But with an initial public offering 18 months away and with only $25 million in the bank and $75 mil more in credit, expansion's not in the any-time-soon offing. Which gives Virgin's competitors plenty of time to play catch-up.

You should read the whole piece, but let's skip to the end:

What Virgin America may really need is more Branson. In a perfect world, he could freely inject capital, or even merge the airline with Virgin Atlantic, shaving off costs and allowing it to offer service more quickly to more cities. The foreign ownership laws, however, make it hard for him to work his usual magic in all but the most superficial ways.

A few hours after the party on the tarmac at Dallas Forth Worth airport, Virgin America hosted more than 1,000 guests at Dallas' Winspear Opera House for a concert by Willie Nelson, days after his latest arrest for marijuana possession. Introducing the country crooner, Branson joked that Nelson and Virgin America have much in common: "We both like to fly high," he cracked. The crowd laughed, then celebrated throughout the night. After the event, even close backers acknowledged the flight ahead could be rough. "It's sad. There's a confluence of things working against these guys," said Fred Reid, Virgin America's first CEO, adding, "I'm hopeful because this is the right thing for air travelers."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky