MIAMI – Today in Aviation, Virgin America (VX) operated its inaugural flight from New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX) to San Francisco (SFO) in 2007.

After successes with Virgin Atlantic (VS) and Virgin Blue (VA) – now Virgin Australia, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson planned to emulate this in the United States. “Virgin USA” was announced in 2004, a new low-fare airline based out of SFO.

Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson announced his preliminary plans for Virgin America in 2004. Photo: Virgin Group

Initial Struggles


Plans, submitted to the US Department of Transportation on December 9, 2005, were rejected. Virgin Group was then forced to reduce its ownership to 25% and management restructure embarked upon before approval was eventually granted.

Rebranded as Virgin America, the airline received its first Airbus A320 N621VA ‘Air Colbert’ in February 2006.

Virgin America was known for its cutting-edge innovation in inflight-entertainment systems. Photo: Virgin America

The Virgin Touch


Like other Virgin Group companies, VX set about differentiating itself from its competition from the outset. Seat-back entertainment was standard and food and drink could be ordered from the comfort of your seat. On May 21, 2009, the airline became the first in the US to offer WIFI on all flights.

After initial losses, VX finally made a profit in 2010. Buoyed by this success an order was placed for 60 Airbus A320s, including 30 A320neos in January 2011. They were also the launch customer for the A321neo.

Initial rumors of a takeover circulated in 2015. These were confirmed on April 4, 2016, when Alaska Air Group announced its intention to purchase VX for US$2.6bn. The Virgin America brand ceased to exist on April 4, 2018.


Featured image: The airline states on its website, “Virgin America is a California-based airline on a mission to make flying good again – with brand-new planes, attractive fares, top-notch service and a host of innovative amenities.” Photo: VX