Exclusive video: inside Virgin America’s DFW launch

If you’ve been reading Gadling in the last week, you’re probably aware that Virgin America launched their first mid-continent destination just one week ago in the heart of Texas. Now, see what it’s like to shake hands with Richard Branson and be on the inside of a Virgin America launch event – bulls, barbecues, bandanas & all.

Special thanks to the W Dallas-Victory, Winspear Opera House, & the entire Virgin America crew. For more photos and a closer look at the company’s future plans, check out the in-depth article here.

Inside Virgin America’s mid-continent arrival

Virgin America DFW

I don’t think I actually understood the implications of Virgin America’s launch into “fortress-hub” Dallas/Fort Worth until we touched down on the tarmac.

As we taxied to our gate, I could see nothing but a endless row of silver fuselages; all adorned with the iconic blue & red “AA” logo. It felt almost as if we were silently making our way through the front gates of a modern-day Troy.

The only difference, of course, was that this Trojan horse was bright red, equipped with mood lighting, and ready to be received by a cheering crowd of residents, city officials, and the rebel billionaire himself, Sir Richard Branson. To top it off, the tarmac was host to a pen of live bulls, tent with cocktail service, and full fledged Texan barbecue – the type of spectacle I’ve come to know, love, and anticipate when Virgin wants to catch people’s attention.

And it certainly seems as if American has already taken notice. In the weeks leading up to the launch, the legacy carrier lowered fares by 20% and offered double frequent flyer miles aboard Dallas-San Francisco and Dallas-Los Angeles routes.

DFW Public Affairs Manager, David Magaña, also mentioned that American hasn’t been able to stop talking about Virgin’s arrival preceding the event, as it signifies the first of several low-cost carriers that will be entering the Dallas market in 2011. While this loosens American’s 85% share of flights from the hub, it spurs competition and ultimately lower fares for passengers.Virgin America’s first mid-continent destination comes at a good moment in the airline’s young story. They posted their first quarterly net profit (as opposed to operating profit) in Q3 of 2010 and were rated top domestic airline for the third year running in the 2010 Zagat Global Airline Survey. At this year’s Farnborough Air Show, they announced plans to more than double their fleet with a purchase of 40 new Airbus A320’s. Now, with their entrance into Dallas consummated, they’ve shown that they’re ready to make their presence tangible and (thankfully) shake thing up a bit.


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However, to make a significant impact, they’ll have to add more flights. At the moment, Virgin America will offer two daily nonstop flights between DFW and Los Angeles, and two to San Francisco. Although it plans to add a third on each route, it would require significantly more options to directly compete with the hundreds of flights per day that American and American Eagle offer.

“It signifies a second stage for the company. We knew eventually that we’d be going into the middle of the country but now seemed the right time since we’ve blanketed most of the coasts. So this is the second stage of our network development.” Virgin America CEO David Cush said in an interview on the flight.

He also emphasized the company’s dedication with hiring “creative, smart, risk-tolerant people who are willing to go out and push the envelope.” as they grow, and that they’re “not sitting back”, but pursuing the development of a “new in-flight experience” that could be ready as soon as 2012.

The night proceeded to unfold in Dallas’s emerging and surprisingly modern downtown arts district with an intimate performance by activist & music icon, Willie Nelson. Following Nelson’s recent arrest for possession of marijuana, Branson donned a shirt that read “Free Willie” and cheekily quipped that the 77-year old musician looked good after “losing six ounces”.

Virgin America DFW

In partnership with nonprofit foundation Stand Up To Cancer, Virgin transformed the Winspear Opera House into a glowing red hub of its own; filled with Dallas’s elite and hundreds of donors that had gathered friends for Stand Up To Cancer’s cause.

It was an impressive occasion that only an airline leveraging Branson’s magic could pull together, and one that sent a clear signal to the rest of Dallas. Virgin America has entered the mid-continent rodeo, and is ready to take the legacy bulls by their horns.

For more information, check out Virgin America’s introductory fares and schedules right here.

Virgin America lands at Dallas Fort Worth (Photos)

Watch out Dallas; the original maverick has come to town. Today, Virgin America officially kicked off its brand new service from LAX & SFO to Dallas Fort Worth with an inaugural flight & tarmac reception hosted by Sir Richard Branson and Dallas mayor, Tom Leppert.

With live bulls in a pen and a sign that read “Don’t fly like cattle”, Virgin America made their message very clear; they’ve come to Dallas to compete with the big boys and they’re committed to offering high quality service to gain that competitive edge.

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In celebration of the occasion, Virgin America has partnered with Stand Up to Cancer to throw a Texas-sized bash this evening at Dallas’s Winspear Opera House, where Grammy Award winner Willie Nelson will give a special surprise performance.

Gadling is on hand to find out what this launch means for competitors (American Airlines), DFW, and passengers. We’ll be speaking with Virgin America’s CEO, David Cush, to find out where the airline is headed & what their future plans are as they continue to expand with new international & domestic routes.

Stay tuned for an exclusive inside look at the event!

American Airlines launches promotions to compete with new Virgin America route at DFW

American AirlinesMove over, American – there’s a new dog and pony show in town. American Airlines has launched a new promotional series they propose will “surprise and delight customers” who fly between their hub at Dallas/Fort Worth and LAX or SFO between now and February 28, 2011.

Cooincidentally, this promotion comes just as Virgin America begins competing service to the same two cities. Still, we’re never one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Take advantage of American’s AAdvantage® program when flying these nonstop routes and gain double elite qualifying miles and double flight miles.

To qualify, passengers must register prior to travel and use promotion code LASF2.

Additionally, between December 1 and 15, American will introduce a ’15 Days of Giveaways’ promotion where customers on several mystery flights a day between DFW and LAX or between DFW and SFO will be selected to receive complimentary giveaway items including Avis Rent A Car coupons, movie passes to see the new film “The Fighter”, Admirals Club one day passes, 5,000 AAdvantage miles an AA Vacations $100 coupon and more.

[Flickr image via CaptnBrando]

Lady attempts to fly out of Dallas Fort Worth airport – in her car

Taking your car to the airport is usually a hassle – high parking rates, strict cops that refuse to let you wait more than 2 minutes in front of the terminal, and of course pesky toll collectors. At DFW airport, Yasmine Villasana really wanted to leave as quickly as possible – because she attempted to take off using the barrier at the toll plaza.

Upon landing, she managed to get out of her car (unharmed) and made a phone call while she watched her vehicle burst into flames. DFW spokesman David Magana told the Dallas Observer that “The driver was, as you might guess, suspected of inebriation and investigated for such and arrested for such.”

She’s very lucky she didn’t kill the toll booth operator or herself – that is one impressive jump – the Duke boys would be mighty proud of her. The Dallas Observer has her mug shot, along with a full police report.