Virgin America Inc., the low-fare carrier partly owned by U.K. billionaire Richard Branson, is set to begin flights at Chicago O’Hare after an almost three-year effort to obtain gates at the second-busiest U.S. airport.
Daily nonstop flights will start May 25 between O’Hare and both San Francisco International and Los Angeles International airports, the closely held airline said Thursday in a statement.
The carrier announced in May 2008 that it would seek to serve the Chicago airport, which is a hub for both American Airlines and United Continental Holdings Inc. Virgin America’s attempts were stymied because the city of Chicago had leased gates to incumbent airlines on an exclusive basis through 2018.
“When more airlines compete, consumers tend to win with lower fares and better service,” Virgin America Chief Executive David Cush said in the statement. The Burlingame, California- based carrier said it agreed to lease space in O’Hare’s Concourse L inside Terminal 3 for the flights.
Virgin America, which began flights from Dallas-Fort Worth International on Dec. 1, also hopes to start service this year in Atlanta, the world’s busiest airport and Delta Air Lines Inc.’s largest hub; Houston, a hub for United Continental; and Philadelphia, a base for US Airways Group Inc., Cush has said.