SAN JOSE -- Virgin America launched four daily flights from San Jose to Los Angeles Wednesday, and executives with the airline hope to add even more flights from Silicon Valley to the East Coast.
Aboard Virgin's 149-seat Airbus A320 nicknamed "#nerdbird," Virgin America President and CEO David Cush said officials with the Burlingame-based airline will monitor demand for their new San Jose-Los Angeles route throughout the year and will make a decision in early 2014 about whether to include longer trips out of Mineta San Jose International Airport, which could possibly begin in summer 2014.
Silicon Valley-based passengers are willing to drive to San Francisco for long-distance flights aboard Virgin, Cush said. But until Wednesday's inaugural Los Angeles-to-San Jose route, those same "very valuable guests" picked Virgin's competitors to make short hops out of San Jose, Cush said.
"This allows us to fill more of their travel needs," he said. Fares on the flight will range from $59 to $491.
Compared with San Francisco International Airport, Mineta airport is nicer, more tech-friendly and easier to get to for Silicon Valley-based passengers, said Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson.
He proclaimed Mineta airport "beautiful."
"I wish every airport could look like this," Branson told this newspaper.
For Silicon Valley-based passengers, Branson said, "if we can give them the routes they'll fly us."
Mark McDaniel, a 47-year-old senior solutions architect for Mountain View-based Violin Memory, boarded Virgin's first scheduled 65-minute flight out of Los Angeles on Wednesday morning and loved the experience of the tech-laden Airbus A320, which allowed him to check scores on ESPN and book a rental car from his seat.
By the time he finished his glass of orange juice, McDaniel said, "all of a sudden it was time to land."
The #nerdbird arrived 14 minutes ahead of schedule at Mineta to a traditional water cannon greeting, and McDaniel soon found himself in Mineta's Terminal A surrounded by Virgin officials, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, San Jose Rep. Zoe Lofgren, members of the San Jose City Council and other dignitaries.
"The whole experience was kind of amazing," McDaniel said.
Reed promised Virgin America officials that their commitment to Silicon Valley will pay off.
"It's a great day when the most innovative airline in the world comes to San Jose," Reed said. "We're going to make this route a success."
Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakaso.
Virgin America launched its new daily service from SJC to LAX beginning Wednesday. One-way fares range from $59 to $491.
6:35 a.m. depart San Jose, arrive 7:45 a.m. in Los Angeles
7 a.m. depart Los Angeles, arrive 8:10 a.m. in San Jose
8:55 a.m. depart San Jose, arrive 10:05 a.m. in Los Angeles
12:55 p.m. depart Los Angeles, arrive 2:05 p.m. in San Jose
2:50 p.m. depart San Jose, arrive 4 p.m. in Los Angeles
4:55 p.m. depart Los Angeles, arrive 6:05 p.m. in San Jose
6:50 p.m. depart San Jose, arrive 8 p.m. in Los Angeles
8:45 p.m. depart Los Angeles, arrive 9:55 p.m. in San Jose
For more information, call 1-877 359-8474 or visit virginamerica.com