Air carrier Virgin America on Tuesday announced new, nonstop flights between Anchorage, Alaska, and San Francisco. The seasonal service gives Virgin its first-ever Alaska route, and offers Alaskans a competitive airfare to the Bay Area, which has for years been a pricey prospect.
Starting June 6, the airline will offer six nonstop flights per week between Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO). There's no northbound flight on Tuesday and no southbound flight on Wednesday.
Introductory fares on the flights are available for as little as $396 roundtrip. Travelers must purchase these tickets no later than Wednesday, Feb. 13.
All flights are operated on Virgin's Airbus 320 jets:
- Alaska-bound flights depart SFO at 8 p.m. with an ANC arrival time of 11:55 p.m.
- California-bound flights depart ANC at 12:50 a.m. with an estimated SFO arrival time of 6:25 a.m.
- Virgin offers connecting flights for other destinations (Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Diego) but so far there are no special introductory fares to these cities -- yet.
Jennifer Thomas of Virgin America said the strong point of the airline's service is on-board customer experience.
"We offer Live TV in every seatback," she said. "Also, with the RED entertainment platform, we offer on-demand food and beverage service, so you don't have to wait for the cart. Also, we offer seat-to-seat chat and shopping right from the screen."
“The addition of Anchorage will allow us to offer seasonal service to one of the most popular outdoor destinations from our home in San Francisco,” said Virgin America President and CEO David Cush in the release.
Headquartered in San Francisco, Virgin America also announced service to Austin, Tex., on Tuesday, giving Alaskans a connection to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) via San Francisco, along with the other cities on Virgin's route.
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The announcement was greeted with delight from Anchorage airport officials as well as the city's tourism promotors.
“We are delighted to welcome Virgin America to Anchorage,” airport manager John Parrott said via prepared statement. “As Alaska’s largest city, it is essential to both our local and state economies that we have ample options when it comes to flying. This additional connectivity will undoubtedly bring economic growth by stimulating both tourism and business travel.”
The news comes on the heels of air carrier jetBlue's announcement that it will offer seasonal flights between Anchorage and Seattle this summer, adding more competition to the market currently dominated by Alaska Airlines. JetBlue and Alaska Airlines have also been competing in recent years with dueling Anchorage-California routes.
Virgin America began service in 2007, saying it aimed to provide "low-fare, high-quality service between major metropolitan cities on the Eastern and West Coast seaboards."
Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based travel marketing consultant who has lived in Alaska for three decades, spending much of that time traveling the far-flung corners of the state. Visit his website at www.alaskatravelgram.com or follow him on Twitter for breaking travel news.