SAN FRANCISCO – Virgin America, the California-based airline, today marks the launch of its first international city and sets it sight on its next destinations.
Today, the airline toasts its new Toronto service on a celebrated flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) through San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ).
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joins Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson onboard the LAX to SFO leg, and via WiFi at 35,000 feet over the California coast, they announce the airline’s intent to serve a new destination: Mexico.
Upon touchdown, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will welcome Sir Richard, the Governor and other guests. The SFO to YYZ flight then will continue on to cross the border in style with Drake, the Toronto native and Grammy nominated recording artist, hosting a mile high party en route.
Since its 2007 launch, Virgin America has made sustainable practices a core part of its business model and has experienced record-setting growth along the way – with 1,600 new jobs created, eight million guests flown and a sweep of the major awards, including “Best Domestic Airline” in Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards and Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards. Virgin America’s low-fare, high-tech service injects new competition into the Canadian market with daily flights* from both SFO and LAX to YYZ. Today, the airline announces its intent to launch flights from SFO to San Jose del Cabo (SJD), SFO to Cancun International Airport (CUN) and LAX to CUN. The airline today files with the U.S. Department of Transportation for authority to begin flying to Mexico this winter.
“Today is a great day for airline competition, for our teammates and for travelers,” said Virgin America President and CEO David Cush. “When more airlines compete, consumers win with lower fares and better service. At a time when most airlines are contracting and consumers expect less and less, we’re proud to be growing, operating responsibly and offering travelers a very different kind of flight experience.”
Virgin America is now poised for major growth, with the launch of five new destinations in 2010, a fleet growth of close to two-thirds projected by Dec. 2011 and plans to double its teammate base by 2012. In addition to creating jobs, lowering fares and improving service, the airline leads the industry on sustainability. Virgin America’s investment in new aircraft and consistent use of sustainable practices on the ground and in the air, make it one of the most carbon efficient airlines – with a fleet that is up to 25 percent more efficient than the U.S. average. Virgin America was the first U.S. airline to list its footprint via globally-recognized standards and to offer guests the ability to offset their travel in-flight. Virgin America’s focus on sustainability has also helped streamline the airline’s costs. The airline remains a strong supporter of AB 32, California’s historic climate change legislation.
“It is no surprise that the only airline headquartered in California is harnessing the best in technology and design to change how people fly. Virgin America has not only reinvented the in-flight experience, they are in step with California’s nation-leading green policies and are leading the way to reduce their carbon footprint,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “Their growth reflects the entrepreneurial spirit of our state and again proves that sustainable practices can improve the bottom line and create jobs. I am thrilled to be a part of Virgin America’s first international flight and look forward to their continued expansion.”
Virgin America’s headquarters are LEED certified and its new home at SFO’s Terminal Two will be LEED certified as well. Virgin America operates one of the youngest fleets in North America and its mood-lit, custom-designed cabins feature the Red™ entertainment system, the most advanced in-flight entertainment platform in the skies. The Red system’s touch-screen offers 20 films, live TV, Google Maps, an MP3 library, videogames, an on-demand menu that allows guests to order at their seat, and even select Carbonfund.org offsets. In 2009, the airline became the first to offer WiFi fleetwide.
“San Francisco is proud to have Virgin America as its hometown airline,” said Mayor Newsom. “Since 2007, they have created hundreds of jobs, lowered fares and helped make SFO one of the nation’s few growing airports.”
Upon touchdown in Toronto, the Airbus A320 aircraft, “Air Drake,” will make a splashy entrance into Canada with a water cannon salute, an international welcoming committee and a red carpet party on the arrival tarmac. Flight guests and Torontonians will be feted later this evening, as Virgin America takes over the trendy new spot to see and be seen – The Thompson Toronto – for a launch party that may just cause an international incident.
“Virgin America is adding direct connections between California and Toronto and doing it in style”, added Lloyd McCoomb, President and CEO of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority. “We are thrilled to welcome another airline to Toronto and look forward to working with Virgin America. The connections between Toronto, San Francisco and Los Angeles make perfect sense, and it is wonderful to have Virgin America connecting our great cities.”
In addition to being a good time, the Toronto launch will help do some good: by raising funds for Virgin Unite and mentoring some aspiring entrepreneurs along the way – literally. Sir Richard, Eric Ryan (Co-Founder of eco-friendly cleaning product company Method), Jason Pomeranc (Thompson Hotel Group Founder) and other outside-the-box business leaders, will host “airplane pitch” sessions with young entrepreneurs en route from SFO to YYZ. Also today, Virgin America kicks off its search for the “Virgin America Toronto Provocateur” who is Virgin enough to represent the airline in Toronto. For every entry, the airline will raise funds for Virgin Unite’s Young Entrepreneurs, which provides training and seed funds to disadvantaged young people.
“Trade, travel, and innovation are keys to one of the closest bilateral relationships in history, and more connections mean more prosperity,” said U.S. Consul General Kevin Johnson, who helps welcome the Virgin America flight to Toronto today. “Vibrant, diverse, and already a gateway to much of the U.S. and the world, Toronto and Ontario are natural partners for California, where ideas and dreams are born.”
Virgin America’s Toronto service began on June 23, however the celebratory first flight occurs today due to G8/G20 summit events. Virgin America flies to San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., Seattle, Las Vegas, San Diego, Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Toronto, and starting in the fall of 2010 – Orlando.