Virgin America’s Awesome Plane DOT Won’t Let You Ride

Look at this sweet ride. Leather seats for first class and coach. Roomy seating. Electrical outlets. USB ports. Standard-size headphone jacks. In-flight entertainment system that lets you watch movies, listen to music, order food, and engage in chatroom cybersex with other passengers.

This is Virgin America’s vision of budget, yes, budget, air travel. And you can’t go on it.

The DOT has tentatively rejected Virgin’s app to operate in the U.S., essentially because they’re a bunch of tea-snorting brits. Maybe they can install some American figurehead. In any event, Virgin released this video on YouTube and set up LetVAFly.com to take the fight to the consumers.

So if you want them to fly, go to their website and sign their petitions and send letters and wear tshirts and crap. As ever, we’re dubious of this marketing effort, but welcome competition to the American air travel market. Come on in, Johnny Reds. — BEN POPKEN

Let VA Fly [via Jaunted]

Comments

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  1. WindowSeat says:

    I like the Airbus, but I’m a little scared of an airborne chatroom flamewar. I say let ‘em fly, it can’t hurt domestic air travel a bit.

  2. MeOhMy says:

    Don’t worry WindowSeat – the awesome V:Port entertainment system has been available on many Virgin Atlantic flights for some time and includes multi-player games and the ability to send messages to other passengers and so far, so good :-)

    As I said in a related post here – I get the spirit of the policy, but it should be applied with thought. An airline that is owned by a company that is probably a front group for the Iranian government is probably not desirable. An airline owned by Richard Branson is probably not cause for concern.

  3. homerjay says:

    Fun with on-board chat rooms:

    “The guy in the seat next to me looks like a terrorist. He’s praying in a some foreign language and keeps playing with his shoes. Please vote in my chatroom poll: Should we jump him and tie him up? Yes/No.”

  4. WindowSeat says:

    Alas, most of my miles are tied up with Delta, Lufthansa and NWA so I won’t see V:Port anytime soon.

  5. timmus says:

    Isn’t this an issue with allowing a foreign carrier to compete with domestic airlines and funnel its earnings over to the UK? In that respect it doesn’t sound like such a hot idea.

    In spite of that I agree that airline service in the U.S. needs a serious enema. I grew up in the 1970s when air travel still had a sense of mystique and thrill. These days I feel like I’m setting foot in an oversized Greyhound station. I avoid flying like the plague, and I hate feeling that way.

  6. Cleophus says:

    Compared to US-owned airlines that suck up taxpayer dollars in asking for and receiving gov’t bailouts, I have no beef with a UK-owned airline doing domestic business in the US.

  7. timmus says:

    I concede that Cleophus has a great point.

  8. Falconfire says:

    I agree I would rather a UK airline that could sustain it’s self and not get handouts from the US government, than US airlines whos profits mysteriously turn into payouts to their owns while they get to claim bankruptcy and fire hard working Americans who make 1/5000th or less what their bosses make.

  9. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    Re: Government bailouts

    I also concur with Cleophus. Ditch the government bailouts and let the free market work it out. In the short term, there may be a few bankruptcies, but in the long term, I think we’d all be better off.

  10. Gari N. Corp says:

    Though it pains me to say it, Richard Branson’s one venture that is a gift to humanity, as opposed to a gift to his public profile, is Virgin Atlantic. I need miles that work pretty muuch anywhere, so I’m locked into this abusive relationship with American/One World. Travelling on one of his aeroplanes almost makes me forget that he released Tubular Bells on the world.

  11. QTex says:

    I spent a very brief amount of time in the upper levels of one of big domestic carrier’s inner workings (you know, one of the carriers with the big shiny silver planes). My thoughts on VA’s petition are mixed.

    For the most part, I’m as pro-free market as the next guy, but there are some reasons why Congress enacted (and continues to keep) the citizenship requirements of the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA). And ya, it’s mostly due to the domestic carrier’s lobbying efforts to prevent foreign competition on domestic routes.

    But also, the airline industry is the most heavily regulated non-regulated industry in the nation. There is some concern that additional regulation of foreign carriers may be difficult to administer. Additionally, there is a fear (mostly unfounded in my opinion) that once the door is opened to foreign control of carriers flying domestic routes, the DOT will have difficulty in regulating exactly whom is in control of the carrier. Finally, Congress has expressed a desire to maintain a healthy, purely domestic group of air carriers for defense purposes-namely the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF). No foreign carrier can be a CRAF carrier, for what I hope are obvious reasons. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Reserve_Air_Fleet

    I’m still on the fence myself, but I thought I would chime in with some reasons to at least consider the other side of the argument. And while I generally agree that the government bailouts need to stop, less domestic carriers may not be such a good thing either.

  12. Her Grace says:

    I’d love to be able to fly Virgin. I wish they’d tap the US to Asia market; the primary carriers for US to Australia, for instance, are United and Qantas (who are a United partner and use their planes). It’s cramped and uncomfortable for 16 hours of unending ocean. While I sincerely doubt that Virgin will be flying any similar route soon (best I can get is Sydney to London), I’d like to believe that if they became a direct competitor for US domestic flights, the US companies would have to shape up to keep their customers and this would eventually extend to their international flights.

  13. shoegazer says:

    @justbrag: “There is some concern that additional regulation of foreign carriers may be difficult to administer. Additionally, there is a fear (mostly unfounded in my opinion) that once the door is opened to foreign control of carriers flying domestic routes, the DOT will have difficulty in regulating exactly whom is in control of the carrier.”

    Surely it’s a case of opening up competitive routes on a route-by-route basis? A blanket ban sounds more like the product of industry lobbying you mentioned than a sensible policy.

    “Congress has expressed a desire to maintain a healthy, purely domestic group of air carriers for defense purposes-namely the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF).”

    I would hardly call the current mix of low cost, aging domestic US aircraft “healthy”.

    Also, I second Her Grace’s comments on the US-Asia route. We have always been forced to take a crappy, cramped NWA flight from Asia as they have reasonably good connections and it just doesn’t make sense to switch airlines for our domestic leg from Minneapolis. Misery.

  14. Hawkins says:

    More competition is almost always a good thing.

    Imagine an airline that didn’t treat its customers with contempt and loathing!

    Maybe I’m being naive. Maybe Virgin Atlantic will turn out to be even nastier to passengers as the incumbents… but that doesn’t seem to be physically possible.

    Burn in Hell, American carriers.

  15. zentec says:

    ANYTHING that can provide an alternative to Northwest airlines out of Detroit is welcome. I’d choose a creaky, dingy and scarred Aeroflot DC-9 over a Northwest Airbus flight. At least I wouldn’t be able to understand the surly attitude of the flight attendants and I’d be expecting the seat pockets to be full of vomit and the toilets overflowing.

    Northworst just uses the vomit and the blue tide washing down the isles as a bonus to “chosing Northwest for your travel”.

  16. Panhandler says:

    If this were a story about a foreign-owned carrier refusing to honor a $5-off coupon for a Consumerist reader, there’d be comments in the thread about “Foreign-owned carriers should be illegal!”

  17. MeOhMy says:

    “Travelling on one of his aeroplanes almost makes me forget that he released Tubular Bells on the world.”

    Managed to take a dig at Branson and Mike Oldfield in a single comment! Fie on you Gari N. Corp! Fie!

  18. Sounds to me like DOT has been “lobbied”otomized by the US carriers.

    The US carriers know that they can’t compete with these efficient desirable foreign carriers, so they bring up National Security and spend our tax dollars lobbying politicians (weird isn’t it?) to keep competition out of the largest “free” market in the world…ironic and vile.

  19. adamondi says:

    It irks me that everyone on this topic keeps calling Virgin America a “foreign” carrier. If you go to the website, you will see that Virgin America is designed as a San Francisco-based company with an American CEO. It is not as if Richard Branson himself is running the company. He is simply one of the investors. Since it is illegal for a foreign investor to have more than a 25% stake in an airline flying domestic routes in the U.S., Branson only has a 25% stake in Virgin America. The other 75% is domestic investment.

    I think the worst thing that could happen to domestic air travel in the U.S. would be for excellent alternatives like Virgin America to be shut out from operating domestically because the current dinosaurs of domestic airlines are afraid of the superior competition.

  20. testkahuna says:

    adamondi – Thanks for bringing that point up. (All) the money isn’t going back to the UK, and it’s not like Sir Richard needs the proceeds from this airline. AV is an American carrier. Problem is that they have their collective shit together and would take away all of the disgruntled flyers – like myself – from the other American Carriers who can’t seem to stay out of bankruptcy. I’d give up my Delta miles and switch if I had a better choice.