Virgin America now connects California to Chicago

Virgin America is taking its mood-lit flights to the Midwest. Today the airline kicks off service from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Chicago O’Hare, and Gadling is joining the airline for its inaugural celebration.


To celebrate the new service, Virgin is offering Chicago flyers a $25 Groupon deal for $100 in air travel, discounting one-way fares as low as $59, and gifting triple points to frequent flyer members.

Stay tuned to Gadling this week for updates from the events and notes from the first few days of service. Word in the underground is that tonight’s celebration at The Wit in Chicago is going to rock the house. Rest assured, we’ll be in the middle of that storm.

Man commits suicide in LAX bathroom, crime still down 6%

Can there be a worse way to go … not to mention a worse place?! Some guy, who isn’t being identified by the police, seems to have killed himself in a restroom at Los Angeles International Airport – Terminal 3, specifically. The unpleasantness happened just before 8 AM yesterday, and shortly after noon, the city’s police said it looked like a suicide.

The victim (and alleged perpetrator, it looks like) was found slumped in a stall with a bag covering his head and his hands bound, according to the LA Times.

The local law enforcement folks said they couldn’t remember a homicide ever taking place inside the LAX terminal, so it looks like the streak, at least, is still alive.

Fortunately, total crime is still down at LAX. For the first half of the year, it fell 6 percent year-over-year, to 1,146 incidents (from 1,222). Arrests fell from 674 for the first half of 2009 to 664 for the first half of 2010, a negligible change. But, there was an aggravated assault that became an arrest in the first six months of this year … and none for the same period in 2009. Meanwhile, 29 million travelers passed through LAX in the first two quarters of 2010, with an average of 236,000 doing so daily.

[photo by brewbooks via Flickr]

JetBlue to cut (profits) back in Long Beach?

If you haven’t taken advantage of JetBlue’s cheap flights between San Francisco and Long Beach, you may want to act quickly. The low-cost airline is considering scaling back service through the latter, which is its hub on the west coast. The slow pace of improvements at the airport, which is city-owned, is the driver behind this decision.

There’s no cause for alarm just yet. JetBlue doesn’t have any formal plan to make the move, but it has announced that it is considering reducing or shifting Long Beach flights. Los Angeles International Airport is among the possible winners, as it would pick up some traffic from the changes.

Of course, Long Beach Airport is protecting itself. Spokeswoman Sharon Diggs Jackson said last Thursday that JetBlue hadn’t indicated that it was heading for the exits. In fact, she noted that the airline is planning to add another flight in May.

Three million passengers pass through Long Beach Airport every year – and JetBlue has the largest presence there. It’s also a profitable spot for the airline.

So, we’re clearly looking at a battle over leverage. Only time will tell the victor.

Remote Bag Check-in at LAX

In an effort to ease congestion and help travelers, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is experimenting with remote bag check-in, at locations around the city. The month-old program is apparently working well, and they’re adding locations.

The service, provided by BAGS, Inc., includes getting airline boarding passes and bag check in, for up to two bags, for between $10-15 per person. At the check-in locations, shuttle bus service ($6 round trip) is available to take you right to LAX. You can then proceed through security and right to your gate.

Check-in locations include the Van Nuys FlyAway bus terminal in the San Fernando Valley, the Union Station FlyAway bus stop at Patsaouras Transit Center, the Los Angeles Convention Center, and the Port of Los Angeles World Cruise Center. They hope to expand the program to major hotels as well.

Unfortunately, it’s only available to U.S. destinations at this time, and the airlines are limited to major U.S. carriers.

If this does expand to hotels and other locations, this would be a good way of avoiding nightmarish check-in lines, although you’re still stuck in security lines.