Virgin America lands at Chicago O’Hare blowing some fresh competition into the Windy City

Virgin America lands at Chicago O’Hare blowing some fresh competition into the Windy City

Virgin America, the new domestic airline that is reinventing travel, today launches its low-fare, upscale service to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), with daily nonstop flights from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO). With legacy airlines representing 98 percent of domestic departures at ORD, the airline hopes to inject some healthy competition into the market. Known for friendly service, beautifully designed cabins and high-tech amenities, like touch-screen entertainment at every seat, Virgin America has been winning over consumers and travel awards since its 2007 launch, including “Best Domestic Airline” in both Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards and Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards for the past three years. Today, Virgin America welcomes its dual inaugural flights with a red carpet welcome on the ORD tarmac followed by a party with a Virgin twist at the airline’s new L3 gate. Local officials and Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson will greet the airline’s first guests, including “Flight for Chicago” Facebook fans who scored the chance to “taste test” the new airline versus the competition with a free one-way flight on a legacy carrier and a return on Virgin America. To mark its entrance into the ORD ring, the airline today launches a knockout combination for Chicago flyers: a Groupon deal, *a Flash Flyaway,**a Fare Sale,***and a triple points offer**** that flyers can actually use – good for travel now through August 31,2011, via the airline’s no-blackout date Elevate frequent flyer program.

“Until today, travelers flying from O’Hare to the two largest California airports had little choice and few low fare options. We believe our flights will be a breath of fresh air for Chicago travelers and thank the City and O’Hare officials for their efforts to open up access to new competition,” said Virgin America President and Chief Executive Officer David Cush. “Flyers deserve more options than just the off-chance they may be upgraded from poor to mediocre on a legacy airline. On Virgin America across every class of service, everyone has a great seat, friendly service, their own seatback entertainment and status – right out of the gate.”

Virgin America is a low-fare airline that has created 2000 jobs and welcomed more than 11 million guests since its 2007 launch. The airline continues to fuel significant growth, with expansion into major markets like ORD and a new fleet that is expected to nearly triple in size by 2019. The airline first announced its intent to serve ORD in 2008, but its plans were delayed due to gate availability. With the leadership provided by the City of Chicago and Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) Commissioner Rosemarie S. Andolino, the carrier reached an agreement to occupy gate space at ORD’s Concourse L. In line with its sleek, tech-forward aircraft cabins, Virgin America’s new L3 gate offers stylish and sustainable design as well as connectivity, with power outlets and wireless induction chargers near all gate seating. In addition to power outlets near every seat onboard its aircraft, Virgin America was the first carrier to offer fleetwide WiFi. The airline’s investment in new aircraft and use of best practices on the ground and in the air, make its fleet up to 25 percent more fuel and carbon efficient than the average fleet flying in the U.S. Virgin America has invested in its new L3 gate to meet and exceed ORD’s already high specifications for environmental efficiency.

“Virgin America’s products and services are a great fit for the City of Chicago and O’Hare International Airport as we continue to provide world-class service to travelers,” said CDA Commissioner Rosemarie S. Andolino. “Forward-looking investments at O’Hare have attracted innovative young carriers like Virgin America to Chicago – and new entrant carriers create local jobs and bring more competition and services to the Chicago market. Virgin America’s focus on the environmental efficiency of its fleet and facilities is also a great fit with the CDA’s industry-leading sustainability efforts.”

To encourage flyers to “get in the ring” with O’Hare’s newest airline, Virgin America today launches a series of knockout deals:

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Today’s Groupon deal gives Chicago Groupon subscribers the chance to purchase a $25 Groupon good for $100 in air travel towards a roundtrip purchase on Virgin America’s ORD flights.* When more than 25 people accept the offer, up to 3000 Chicagoans can score this unbeatable deal, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C). Today’s Groupon is not the first time that the tech-savvy carrier has joined forces with the Chicago-based daily deal pioneer. In February, Virgin America announced its ORD service with the first-ever Groupon aimed solely at air travel. The offer sold out in minutes. To purchase or to find out more on today’s offer, visit: http://www.groupon.com/deals/virgin-america-chicago-2

Today, the airline extends its “Flight for Chicago” social media campaign with a flash flyaway**giving Chicagoans the chance to decide the “champion of the skies” via a roundtrip match-up. A code is being released on Virgin America’s Facebook page and Twitter feed today. The first 10 Chicagoans who use it to book a Main Cabin seat at www.virginamerica.com on the carrier’s 5:35pm inaugural flight today from ORD-SFO (VX 841), score a $25** fare (restrictions, taxes and fees apply), a stay at the Galleria Park Hotel (a Joie de Vivre hotel in San Francisco) and a free coach return on the legacy competition. Branson will send off the winners at ORD this afternoon. The $25 fare will be donated by Virgin America to SU2C. See: http://www.virginamerica.com/vx/booking/chicago-flyaway-challenge

A Knockout Fare Sale launches today across the airline’s network with ORD-SFO and ORD-LAX fares from $139*** (restrictions, taxes and fees apply). Tickets are on sale now at www.virginamerica.com and by calling 1.877.FLY.VIRGIN (1.877.359.8474).*****

An Elevate triple points offer**** is available now for travel through August 31, 2011, between SFO or LAX and the carrier’s newest markets of Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth. Elevate is Virgin America’s no black-out date frequent flyer program, which offers guests the ability to redeem points for any unsold seat – on any flight, at any time. Elevate has one of the industry’s most generous reward programs, with as few as four roundtrips or 2,500 points earning a reward flight. For more on the offer:

http://www.virginamerica.com/vx/triple-points-promo. To sign up for Elevate: http://www.virginamerica.com/frequent-flyer/elevate-program.html

Virgin America’s new aircraft offer a host of innovative amenities, including custom-designed seating, mood-lit cabins, power outlets and the most advanced entertainment system in the skies. The Red™ entertainment platform offers each guest their own nine inch touch-screen TV with 30 on-demand films, live TV, Google Maps, videogames, seat-to-seat chat, music videos, a 3000 track MP3 catalog and an on-demand menu – so flyers can order a cocktail or meal from their seat any time during a flight. In 2009, the airline became the first to offer WiFi fleetwide via its partnership with the Illinois-based Aircell. The carrier marked the milestone with the first air-to-ground SKYPE from 35,000 feet to Oprah Winfrey in her studio audience. In addition to a Main Cabin that offers each guest a personal TV, outlets and a leather seat with a deeper, more comfortable pitch, the airline’s First Class offers plush white leather seating with 55 inches of pitch, 165 degrees of recline and lumbar massagers. The carrier’s Main Cabin Select option offers 38-inches of pitch, free food and cocktails, an all-access pass to the Red system’s countless media options, dedicated overhead bins and priority check-in/boarding.