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17/10/2008 – Virgin America Top U.S. Airline According To Conde Nast......but how?
Every year Conde Nast Traveler surveys travelers to pick their top airline. This year Conde Nast Traveler readers placed Virgin America in the #1 slot.
On one hand I agree, Virgin America is a good airline. I have regularly chosen to fly Virgin Atlantic over all other airline combined over the years when flying certain Trans Atlantic routes. Virgin's brand of airlines has a long history of being top-notch carriers.
My problem with Virgin America taking the #1 slot is that the airline only services a total of seven cities, in a total of five states. Virgin America only currently offers a total of 18 non-stop routes nationwide, which are really 9 non-stop routes since I am counting the 'return leg' as a valid non-stop route (ie: I am counting IAD-LAX as two routes instead of one, since there is also obviously LAX-IAD).
The way I see airline travel, even the most top notch airline cannot rank as #1 if it fails to service the overwhelming majority of the flying public. Yes, Virgin America goes head to head with the 'legacy' airlines on the highly competitive, JFK-SFO/JFK-LAX routes. Virgin America launched these routes first to compete with United Airlines' P.S. service, American Airlines’ Flagship Service, and Delta Airlines who are go head to head daily competing for passengers on these two specific routes.
Virgin America is extremely popular on these two routes. I know at least half-a-dozen flyers who travel this route constantly who have left United and American Airlines to fly Virgin America as their primary carrier.
While these routes are popular, and are gaining the attention of frequent flyers on these routes, what about flyers from the remaining 45 states? Clearly Conde Nast's survey was not handed to those who do not fly Virgin America routes? What about the heavy amount of frequent flyers out of Chicago? Dallas? Minneapolis? The frequent business travelers who depart Appleton, WI, Rochester, NY? Sacramento, CA?
I'm not saying I fully question the validity of the survey, however I am saying a huge portion of the flying public was missed with the survey.
Yes, I think Virgin America offers a great product. Yes, I often fly out of JFK. Yes, my most commonly traveled to (and through) airport in San Francisco.........but for my 200,000 air miles flown last year and this year, I have primarily departed from Providence, RI or New Haven, CT, flying to at least 35 airport (by quickly flipping through my records and taking a quick count) that are not services by Virgin America. I'd bet that at least 95% of the frequent flyers in the United States have a similar scenario that does not allow Virgin America to be their top airline either (it's probably more than 95%).
Conde Nast's poll also placed Virgin Atlantic in the #3 slot for international airlines. No shock they'd be in the top 10, and certainly no surprise that Singapore Airlines took the #1 slot. Singapore Airlines has been voted #1 by Conde Nast readers 20 times in the past 21 years.