Budget airline Virgin America, the California-based flight operator partially owned by eccentric, daredevil British billionaire Richard Branson, will start flying out of Austin-Bergstrom International on May 21, the Austin Business Journal reports.
The airline, similar to price-conscious counterpart JetBlue, offers cheap roundtrip airfare to select cities. Virgin is already booking flights to Anchorage, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. When we putzed around with potential flights on the Virgin site, we were able to find a roundtrip ticket to Anchorage for a little more than 300 bucks.
All the flights connect through San Francisco and will be limited to two daily trips: from San Francisco at 10:15 a.m. landing in Austin at 3:35 p.m. and from Austin at 5 p.m. to San Francisco at 7 p.m.
The six-year-old airline will compete at Austin-Bergstrom with other discount and economy-class airlines like the aforementioned JetBlue, as well as the wildly popular (and Texas-based) Southwest, who represents the largest share of flights in and out of the airport, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. And unlike Southwest, Virgin charges for checking baggage. (Southwest offers up to two checked bags for free.)
Another hurdle facing the airline is that based on flight trends, Austin fliers tend to stay local and don’t fly out west too often. According to BTS data, the top five flight destinations for Austin-Bergstrom are currently Dallas-Fort Worth’s DFW, Houston, Atlanta, Denver and Dallas Love.