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Is Virgin America Secretly Psyching Up to Launch Hawaii Flights?

May 14, 2012 at 4:46 PM | by | ()

Okay, who wants to go to Hawaii? Really, the better question would be who doesn't to go to Hawaii? Even though it seems all the state can do is cry about how they need more tourists, airlines have been upping their island game all season. Heck, Hawaiian Airlines is gearing up to begin NYC-Honolulu nonstop service next month, while that Mokulele thing is doing some other island-hoppy stuff and now we may be able to throw Virgin America an "aloha."

The SFO-based low-cost airline is flying their birds back and forth between San Francisco and Hawaii already...but not with paying passengers. Instead, the FAA is onboard as, according to the NYCAviation discussion board, the airline's Airbus A320s undergo ETOPS trials.

For everyone who hasn't read "Aviation for Dummies," ETOPS stands for "extended operations," and it's an approval needed when you're an airline trying to fly two-engined planes (such as A320s) pretty long distances, like the west coast to Hawaii, for example. At 5 hours and all over water, the flight is no San Fran-Portland hop, nosiree. So, does this mean Branson will soon be pulling stunts on a Hawaiian tarmac?

We reached out to Virgin America's VP of Corporate Communications, Abby Lunardini, for the latest word. Though she concedes that yes, Virgin America is in the "early stages" for ETOPS certification, she remains evasive on the topic of Hawaii: "I will say that it has always been on our prospective destinations list -- but we have not announced immediate plans."

That's cool, because in the last few hours Virgin America have upped their workload as it is, announcing that they've received approval to launch cross-country low-cost flights from Washington DC's Reagan National Airport. No start date for the SF-bound flights has been decided on, but their flights will join other new routes to DCA on JetBlue (to SJU), Southwest (to AUS) and Alaska Airlines (to PDX).

Good news, all around!

[Images: Google Maps, Virgin America and virginamerica on Instagram]

Archived Comments:


Oh, I hope this happens! Would love to fly Virgin to Honolulu!

Awesome Detective Sleuthing!

Take that Allegiant...ha!

Tiny Plane 5 Hours Over Water...

Can they make money with only about 120 seats all the way to Hawaii? They quit flying to Orange County. They also quit flying to Toronto. It seems like they'd make more flying 2 hours to Vancouver instead of 5 hours to the islands.

No secret

Virgin America recently had an "ETOPS project manager" job opening posted on the employment portion of its website. Considering this job may have only recently been filled, I suspect rumors of SFO-Hawaii flying may be premature. I worked for an airline that applied for ETOPS (which actually stands for Extended Twin Engine Overwater Operations) and test flights did not proceed until manuals and procedures had been developed and approved by the FAA. The bigger question, as has been noted, is whether Virgin can profitably serve the Islands from its SFO/LAX bases. I'm not sure whether Virgin's A320's have adequate range. Its A319s, however, may be able to make the flights. The Islands are a top frequent flier redemption market. Fuel is expensive. These factors don't bode well for turning a profit. I suspect that other cities, such as Houston, New Orleans, Charlotte, and Atlanta would be more profitable for Virgin AMerica than Hawaii.

Maybe, maybe not

This thread on Airliners.net, an aviation-focused website, discusses whether Virgin America can serve the Islands with its current fleet of aircraft. http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/general_aviation/read.main/5465853/ The consensus is that only Virgin's A319 airplanes could reach Hawaii from SFO, and questions whether they could turn a profit.


The idea of Virgin America flying to Charlotte in the future? Ahahahaha.