Virgin America takes ‘giant step’ forward

The Department of
Transportation has tentatively approved Virgin America’s
application to start a new U.S. airline, finding the carrier is owned and
controlled by U.S. citizens and is fit to operate as a domestic airline.The DOT Order proposes that Virgin America finalize changes already
offered by the company to address concerns about its citizenship, and to
satisfy certain other pre-launch conditions.
  “We worked very hard to address the Department’s initial concerns, and
are pleased that they have recognized our extensive work and good faith
commitment to meet and exceed those requirements,” said Virgin America CEO
Fred Reid. “We plan to meet with our shareholders immediately to address
the Department’s proposed conditions.”
  Virgin America said it hoped to receive final DOT approval in
anticipation of a mid-summer launch from its base at San Francisco
International Airport to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. Four
additional cities—Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Washington D.C.
—are planned to be added within nine months of the company’s first
  “Today’s order puts us one giant step closer to flying,” said Virgin
America spokesman Gareth Edmondson-Jones. “We look forward to finally
getting our wings—it will be a huge win for our employees, investors,
supporters, and the traveling public.”
  “We’d like to thank Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, Assistant
Secretary Andy Steinberg, and the entire DOT team for tentatively finding
us fit, a U.S. citizen, and ready to fly. Once finalized, this decision
will create more jobs, service, and competition for U.S. travelers.”
  The company also expressed its appreciation to its key supporters in
this process, especially Mayor Gavin Newsom, Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Senator Diane Feinstein, and
Senator John Ensign, San Francisco Bay Area businesses, the City of
Burlingame and the tens of thousands of other supporters who used their
website to voice their encouragement for our “let VA fly” campaign.
  Virgin America is also in the final stages of receiving approval from
the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as the first new airline ever to
be certified through the agency’s new Air Transportation and Oversight
System (ATOS) safety program—the FAA’s newest and most advanced safety
surveillance program. The airline finished its formal FAA safety evaluation
in December 2006, and FAA officials commented that it was “the best
certification they had seen in 25 years.”