By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY
SAN FRANCISCO — Virgin America CEO David Cush says Washington’s Reagan National Airport and Newark Liberty Airport will be the airline’s next two destinations — if the carrier can win landing rights at the two capacity-controlled airfields.
“Our 2011 new destinations largely depend on two things,” Cush told Today in the Sky last week in San Francisco.
“One is, what ends up happening with Washington National (and its) beyond-perimeter slots,” Cush said.
Currently, flights at the close-to-downtown National Airport are limited to routes no longer than 1,250 miles. There are currently about a dozen routes exempted from the perimeter rule, but that number could increase by nearly double if Congress acts this year — as expected — to add more exemptions to the rule.
“That will be determined sometime in the next several months. And if we’re able to get in, that will be our next new destination,” Cush said. “We’re interested in flying into that airport and we’ll do it as often as we can from L.A. and San Francisco.”
Cush continued, adding “the other thing that really is in the government’s hands right now is that we’re interested in getting into Newark. We’ve been interested for three years. There’s an opportunity when the FAA slot moratorium expires in November to give us slots into Newark.”
Currently, flights at Newark are capped by the government, though its uncertain what action the government might take on that later this year.
“We’ve been quite vocal with the DOT as well as with the DOJ that the competitive environment in Newark is very bad,” Cush said. “We want to get in and provide some competition.”
Cush also stressed Virgin America would not add service to Newark with just a token flight schedule.
“The only way we’re going to go in is if we can go in with a meaningful schedule,” he said. “Commercially viable times for three flights from San Francisco and three from L.A. Because we’re not going to go in and just get our head pounded by the monopoly carriers.”
So, what happens if Virgin America cannot secure access to either airport?
“If it turns out we get locked out of these airports, we’ll find other places to go,” Cush said. “Atlanta, Austin, the normal suspects … .”