MIAMI — Virgin America (VX) has announced plans to add Hawaii to its route map, by offering one daily round-trip flight to Honolulu (HNL) and Maui (OGG) from its main hub located in San Francisco (SFO). Operations to HNL will commence on November 2, while flights to OGG will begin on December 3, all of them already available for booking as of today.
“As one of the most popular leisure destinations among Bay Area travelers, we are pleased to announce our new nonstop service to Hawaii,” said Virgin America President and Chief Executive Officer, David Cush. “This marks the next phase of growth for our airline, as we take delivery of new Airbus aircraft and expand our Elevate program with more world-class rewards destinations. With a loyal following of Bay Area-based business travelers who have long requested our expansion to the islands, we couldn’t be more pleased to offer our ‘work-hard/play-hard’ frequent flyers the opportunity to fly in style to the ultimate getaway. We look forward to bringing a new kind of flight service to the market and to building lasting community ties with the state of Hawaii.”
Virgin America plans to operate these routes with the new Airbus A320 it will receive later this year, but it is unclear if these will be the ceo (current engine option) or neo (new engine option) aircraft. In any case, the airline is currently working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to receive the “ETOPS” extended operations certification that is required to fly twin-engine aircraft on long-range over-water routes.
While Hawaii may represent a tremendous growth opportunity for VX, the carrier will have to compete with Delta (DL), Hawaiian (HA), and United (UA). Virgin America will also indirectly compete with Alaska Airlines (AS) and Hawaiian, as both carriers offer also services to HNL and OGG from Oakland (OAK) and San Jose (SJC).
Since its launch in 2007, Virgin America has been expanding its network, which currently includes over 20 cities in the United States and Mexico. The new Hawaii markets will add the 22nd and 23rd destinations served by the airline.