Virgin America Responds: It’s Door #3

Virgin America

Last week, I wrote a post talking about Virgin America’s decision to temporarily cut capacity in some of its long haul markets. Soon after, I received an email from Abby Lunardini, Director of Corporate Communications for Virgin America, saying that the reason for the cancellations was . . . delays in getting aircraft ready for service. So, it was door #3.

07_11_19 virginchoosesAh, and I had my bets on door #1. Ms Lunardini pointed me to this article from early October talking about some of the problems. Looks like it’s related to the installation of the inflight entertainment system.

Ok, so that’s the reason for the cancellations, but it still begs the question as to why they’re canceling the long haul routes where the onboard product gives them a bigger advantage instead of the short haul flights. I asked Ms Lunardini if she could explain that one to me. Her response?

. . . our decision was based on how to impact the fewest number of departures, and therefore the fewest number of guests, while reaccommodating those that were impacted with as little disruption as possible.

We know that they had to cancel something since they had already scheduled flights for those planes that are delayed in arriving. So, they went with the fewest number of passengers impacted as their decision metric. Does that mean that the JFK flights are empty and the short hauls are full? I’m going to guess that’s not the case. I think it’s just that you only need to cancel two long haul flights in a day to free up a plane but you need to cancel a lot more short hauls. If we take them for their word here (and I’m inclined to do so), I’m not sure that is how I would have made my decision.

Instead of looking at the most number of passengers impacted, I would probably have thought about which passengers would be impacted the most. People scheduled on the short LAX-SFO or LAS-SFO flights could be put on to Southwest, American, United, Alaska, and US Airways. They all have nonstop options and they go extremely frequently. And since it’s a short flight, those passengers aren’t going to be as bothered by the lack of inflight entertainment.

On the other hand, there are fewer options for the long haul passengers. Yes, they can put people on American, Delta, JetBlue, and United, but there aren’t as many flights. And the longer flights mean passengers will be more annoyed when they don’t have the Virgin amenities that they hoped to find. Oh well. It is what it is.

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3 comments on “Virgin America Responds: It’s Door #3

  1. I remain amazed at the fixation on IFE (and the zillions spent)(won’t all today’s top-of-the-line stuff look in a few years just as forlorn as those old descending-from-the-ceiling screens?).
    It gives the airlines the wrong message. What do I want when I fly? Safety (maintenance), courtesy (includes ease of buying online etc), schedule.
    Then, of course I personally NEED a window (but I realize that there are person-to-window ratio problems).
    Other than that, just leave me quietly alone in my seat; I certainly don’t want to watch a movie that I would never turn on at home, nor do I need to fixate on CNN for more hours.
    My airline stock would be worth a lot more if they didn’t pour all those bucks into junk entertainment. Are we no longer able to live inside our own heads for a few hours without outside distraction?

  2. Cranky,

    Another thing to think about in the decision: Virgin America is still in the start up phase and it’s important to get as many people as possible to try their service to build a loyal customer base. While it may be easiest to reaccomodate all the short haul folks, the more people you have sampling your superior service the faster your base grows – getting the win with more customers on the short haul will impact their growth curve less than demonstrating their superiority to the smaller number of long haul customers.

    BRog :)

  3. Good point, BRog. So maybe what they do in that case is still cancel the short haul flights but give the passengers a voucher for use on a future flight. That keeps the long haul pax happy and ensures that they’ll at least have another chance to impress the short haul traveler.

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