Virgin America CEO David Cush said the airline will have the capability to start flying from Los Angeles to Honolulu later this year, although it has yet to make a decision about the route.
Speaking at the Raymond James 36th Annual Institutional Investors Conference in Orlando March 3, Cush said Virgin America hasn’t been able to fly to Honolulu due to its l lack of certification for the airline’s Airbus A320 aircraft to fly that over-water route.
But that issue should be resolved later this year, Cush said, as Virgin America is going through the certification process.
In response to an audience question, Cush elaborated on Virgin America’s philosophy toward route decisions, saying cities have to “pay their own rent” and that the airline doesn’t pick cities for network reasons as some competitors must do.
Cush explained the aviation industry is data-rich and knows before deciding on a route how many passengers are flying into a city, which airlines are transporting them and how much the passengers are paying.
This data abundance, though, hasn’t prevented Virgin America from making mistakes, Cush said.
Virgin America decided to stop flying to Toronto, for example, Cush said, adding that Virgin America was “wrong” about beginning service to Toronto and when the airline is wrong, it leaves.
Virgin America also reversed course and ceased flying to Philadelphia but Cush attributed that more to the changed competitive dynamics that came with the American Airlines-US Airways merger than to an analytical blunder.
Honolulu and Denver are the cities among the top ten domestic markets from LAX that Virgin America doesn’t fly to. It also doesn’t fly to Denver from San Francisco.
Along with a looming decision about Honolulu, Cush said it is likely that Virgin America will start flying to Denver.
Cush also addressed the Hawaii issue during Virgin America’s fourth quarter earnings call, saying:
“We have seen the growth in the Hawaiian market in terms of capacity, but our analysis right now shows that the market is absorbing that capacity quite efficiently and that revenue is growing in particular from the Bay Area, revenue has grown with that capacity.
“So we’re going to keep a close eye on it. We don’t need to make that decision today. We are preparing technically all of the things that we need to prepare in order to do that so that if we make that decision from a marketing standpoint and a network standpoint we’re prepared to operate it. But as of now, we remain pretty bullish on the Hawaiian market. Particularly given our point of sales strength down at San Francisco.”