Agents Eager for Virgin America Outreach

It's been just under one month since Richard Branson's low-cost start up carrier, Virgin America, began operations from its San Francisco hub to such cities as New York, Los Angeles, and soon, Washington, D.C.

The carrier reached out to a small portion of the agent community recently, with the intent of expanding on that communication soon, though no further details were available at press time.

A Virgin America spokesperson said that the airline hopes to do more events like the one it held in July for about 80 agencies, which took tours of the aircraft and received complimentary tickets. Virgin America is available through Galileo.

Many agents are eager for a more widespread outreach. "I know nothing except what's been reported in the media," says Trudy Lagerman, a travel consultant with Liberty Travel in Selinsgrove, PA, which has bulk deals in place with Virgin Atlantic, "but if Branson handles his domestic routes as he does on Virgin Atlantic's international routes, it's going to be an extremely successful airline. I have frequent fliers who will pay more to fly Virgin America, just based on his reputation."

John Clifford of International Travel Management in San Diego, CA, says he too, is waiting to know more about how the airline would engage agents, but adds that he has no doubt the agent community would hear more soon. "The bottom line is that Richard Branson's culture is very agent-friendly," he says. "He realizes the value of people and having a human face to sell a product."

Virgin America said it expects to serve as many as 10 cities within a year and up to 30 cities within five years. Flights between San Francisco and New York began August 8. On August 29, Virgin America began service between New York and Los Angeles with two daily roundtrip flights; a third will be added September 16. On September 26, the carrier will start flying twice-daily service between San Francisco and Washington, D.C., Dulles; on October 10, three daily flights between San Francisco and Las Vegas; and on October 24, two daily flights between Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

The carrier is considering expanding service to close to 40 cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Miami, Newark, N.J. and Philadelphia.