Burlingame Travel Guide
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What began as one floor is now an entire building, and their original two coast-to-coast flights are now a respectable route network. We're speaking of Virgin America, whose headquarters outside SFO in Burlingame, California we recently visited for a look at the cogs turning behind the scenes.
Virgin America celebrated their fifth anniversary this year. That makes them the baby of the bunch, for both US airlines and Virgin. Heck, Virgin Atlantic has been flying since 1984 and Virgin Australia since 2000. Indeed Virgin America isn't shy about their newbieness; they take pride in it. Google them and the first words you'll see below the link to their official site are "A brand new airline dedicated to making flying good again."
You know what else is new? Their cabin trainer and A320 flight simulator still have that "new plane smell," since they were introduced as recently as October 2011 and May 2012, respectively. Home to many photo shoots (and in-flight service training, duh), the cabin is outfitted with everything from the deep mood lighting to working overhead bins and those massage chairs in First Class. Before a flight attendant can ask if you'd like another in-flight absinthe, she or he must first pass muster here.
When news broke in December that Virgin America CFO Robert Dana would be leaving come 2009, we didn't mention the story, preferring to let Wonky Aviation Industry Insiders* handle the minutiae of the comings and goings of financial wizards. But, as one of our astute commenters reminds us, Dana isn't just any bean counter: He's the guy that drew up the original business plan for the innovative airline that's been our favorite domestic carrier for two straight years.
What about the very recent changes in top management? Do they foreshadow other changes? Everybody loves Charles, but the heart and soul of Virgin America is leaving and you haven't said a word. (How does the culture look going forward--an awful lot of legacy people there.)
It's a fair question, particularly for a scrappy startup with a relatively small number of employees that prides itself on doing things a bit differently. How much did Dana really influence the day to day? With both Dana and Ogilvie out, will Virgin America be able keep the innovation coming? And how much influence can any one person (not named Steve Jobs) really have on a brand?
They aren't questions VA's likely to answer, so we're kicking them to you, the commenters. Don't be shy!
* Not a real magazine.
· Virgin America's Chief Financial Officer to Depart [Press Release]
· Charles Ogilvie: Leaving Virgin America, Heading for China [Jaunted]
It's time for us to wrap up the best and the worst of travel in 2008 with the annual awards show we lovingly call The Jauntys. There's no better place to start than with the domestic airline we love most...
During last year's award ceremony, we predicted one airline would step up to the podium again this year--as long as its vision didn't waver. And, indeed, Virgin America may be better than ever. It's the Best Domestic Airline of 2008.
True, there are reasons to worry about its future from a business perspective, but for passengers, VA just keeps improving, maintaining the good fares and the incredible product we've come to expect while adding cities and outfitting planes with WiFi. The carrier lost a serious talent this year, but its innovative spirit and a frequent flier program that's finally off the ground have the airline already in the running for a third-straight win in 2009.
· So That's What Happened! United and American Play Hardball with VA [Jaunted]
· Virgin America Jonesing for Some Slots in the OC [Jaunted]
· 2007 Awards: Best Domestic Airline [Jaunted]
· The Jauntys [Jaunted]
From Jaunted Tipster Gary:
I'm hoping that the Pop Culture Travel Guide that likes Really Big Things would enjoy seeing the World's Biggest Pez Dispenser!
Enjoy it? Dude, if we didn't already have plans this weekend we would be off to Burlingame. Ok, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia definitely gives Burlingame, a tired little airport town, something big. We will add the museum to our "need to visit" list, especially if we end up at SFO a couple hours too early for a flight one of these days.