Virgin America Aborts OC Flights

virgin-inaugural2.jpg
Hello . . . and goodbye: Virgin America pulled out all the stops--and skin--to celebrate the launch of Orange County service last May.
Virgin America will cancel flights to John Wayne Airport beginning in May, a year after launching service between Orange County and San Francisco.

The carrier--which marked its inaugural Airbus A320 flight from Orange County to San Francisco with founder Richard Branson on a surfboard, MC Hammer, members of The Real Housewives of New York City (what, Orange County's are chopped liver?), free-flowing champagne, babes in bikinis and free spray tans on the SNA tarmac--has apparently just now figured out the local runway is too short to be profitable.

In other words, John Wayne could not accommodate bigger planes carrying more passengers to desired destinations, according to Virgin America, which also announced Thursday it is adding direct service to another Orange County--Orlando, Florida--from LAX, which will also add direct Virgin flights to Toronto.

"Despite our relatively strong performance at SNA, given our new fleet plan and network prospects, we've made the decision to focus on the immediate long-haul opportunities that the Orlando and Toronto markets provide," says Virgin America president and CEO David Cush in a press release.

The LAX-to-Orlando service, with $149 one-way fares, is scheduled to begin in August.

The switch is bad news to Bay Area travelers who liked having a low cost (and more comfortable) alternative to Southwest out of John Wayne--or Jet Blue out of Long Beach. United and United Express also offer spendy service to SFO.

May 26 is the last day of Virgin's San Francisco service from John Wayne. Those with flights booked after that date have the option of flying out of LAX or San Diego with no change fee nor higher fare.

Virgin's exit from Orange County opens space for other carriers waiting for new gates, including Air Tran, West Jet and Horizon Air, JWA spokeswoman Jenny Wedge tells Orange County Local News Network.

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