On May 31st, Virgin America will operate the inaugural flight of its A321NEO from San Francisco SFO to Washington DCA. Virgin America recently announced plans to also fly its A321NEO fleet between San Francisco’s SFO and New York’s JFK Airports. Set to begin on June 14th, 2017, the A321NEO will operate one daily flight each way. The schedule is as follows:
San Francisco (SFO) to New York (JFK) Effective June 14th, 2017
VX22 San Francisco 9:10 a.m. departure -> New York 5:50 p.m. arrival
VX29 New York 6:55 p.m. departure -> San Francisco 10:35 p.m. arrival
Virgin America is the latest airline to join the growing trend of airlines flying A321’s across the U.S. Surprisingly, unlike the other A321’s on the high demand JFK-SFO route, Virgin America’s A321NEO won’t focus on the premium market. With only 8 first class seats and no plans to change its onboard product, Virgin’s A321 appeal to premium travelers pales in comparison to American Airlines’ business traveler oriented 10 first class and 20 business class seats, jetBlue’s innovative 16 business class Mint seats, and Delta’s capacity oriented widebody (transatlantic-configured) transcon cabins.
Despite this, Virgin’s A321 will boast the same features that have gotten Virgin America ranked as America’s best airline for several consecutive years. Virgin will keep its inflight AVOD screens, ViaSat Wifi, power ports, and vibrant mood-lighting. Its 185 total seat cabin is also expected to remain as roomy and convenient as the airline’s 149 seat A320 cabin.
The A321NEO is Virgin America’s latest plane yet to be delivered. Virgin’s A321’s will feature CFM LEAP-1A engines and Sharklets, together predicted to improve the A321’s fuel burn by over 20%. With an estimated delivery time during Q1 2017, Virgin America will have a few weeks to work out the kinks in the new jets before its full fledged cross country flights. The delivery of Virgin America’s A321NEO’s come at a pivotal time in the airline’s history. Currently finalizing a merger with Alaska Airlines, Virgin America will soon vanish under the influence and name of the Alaska Airlines brand. Alaska’s recent announcement to limit the amount of future Airbus deliveries has placed the future of Virgin’s all-Airbus fleet in question. Coupled with Virgin America’s obvious shift away from catering for a premium market, the introduction of the A321 into Virgin America’s fleet begs the question; will Virgin’s A321NEOs be the flagship of Virgin America’s signature snazzy style or represent a shift into Alaska’s simple but hospitable model?