Virgin America announced earlier today that effective December 1, the airline will discontinue its four daily nonstop flights between Dallas Love Field (DAL) and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), partially replacing it with twice a day service from DAL to Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport (LAS). Customers already booked on DAL-AUS flights on or after December 1st can contact the airline and receive a full refund.
From DAL to LAS, the flights will leave daily except Saturday at 10:45 A.M. and 7:30 P.M., arriving in Las Vegas at 11:35 A.M. and 8:20 P.M., respectively. On Saturdays, the morning schedule remains the same, but the evening flight will depart at 5:50 P.M., arriving at LAS at 6:40 P.M. Returning to Dallas, flights will operate daily except Sunday at 1:30 A.M. and 12:25 P.M., arriving in Dallas at 6:10 A.M. and 5:05 P.M., respectively. The redeye will not operate on Sunday, instead leaving LAS at 7:10 A.M. and arriving at 11:50 A.M. (As an aside, at a block time of 2 hours and 40 minutes, think twice about booking the redeye if substantial alcohol consumption is on the menu in Vegas; let’s just say you might not be feeling so hot after landing.)
Back in September, I had reported on speculation that Virgin’s Austin flights may be on the chopping block, given comments made by CEO David Cush at the Boyd Conference. Indeed, operational performance was blamed for the route’s demise. I can’t say I’m surprised; the entire strategy of going into Austin has puzzled me from the start, given the relatively short driving distance, already abundant frequencies via Southwest and American, and the recent entrance of bus competition via Megabus and Vonlane.
The move always reeked of gate squatting to me, especially given the yet unresolved spat between the City of Dallas, Delta, and Southwest concerning gate use at the airport. Interestingly, with the reduction from four flights a day to Austin to two to Las Vegas, Virgin’s total daily departures drop from 19 to 17, though it’s currenly unclear whether Virgin will attempt to add service elsewhere. Given that Virgin has reportedly been best by operational challenges at Love since ramping up to 19 flights per day, my guess would be no, at least not in the immediate future.
I’m actually a little surprised to took Virgin this long to launch flights to Sin City. Virgin’s target market would seem to be a perfect fit for flights to Vegas, and anecdotally at least, several friends who frequently travel there have been hoping that Virgin would enter the market for quite some time now. In any event, enjoy big savings on the new service if you act fast; Virgin is offering both a two-for-one offer and special fares starting at $49 each way, but tickets must be booked by 11:59 P.M. tonight.