Virgin America’s last flight from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport was its first to Dallas Love Field Monday morning as the airline permanently moved its base of operations after the Wright Amendment expired.
The flight, normally about five minutes in the air, lasted about an hour as a ceremonial moving of operations. The airline also had to relocate its plane that flew in from California Sunday.
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and a minority investor in Virgin America, had a champagne toast for the 90 passengers on board what was called the “Downtown Express” flight.
As part of the celebration, country singer Kacey Musgraves performed three songs, including her hit Follow Your Arrow, at 35,000 feet. Musgraves is originally from Mineola, about 90 minutes east of Dallas.
Virgin America is moving from a single gate at D/FW Airport to two gates at Love Field that American Airlines had to give up as a condition of merging with US Airways.
Firefighters at Love Field welcomed the first Virgin jet with a traditional water canon salute spraying two streams over the taxiing aircraft.
Southwest Airlines, based at Love Field, lobbied hard to get the additional gates but was eventually unsuccessful persuading the city of Dallas, which owns the airport.
Virgin America, which is also a low-fare airline, offers TVs in every seat back, electric plugs in both cabins and a mood-lit atmosphere in its cabins. The airline hopes to attract new business clients from Southwest as it begins direct competition at Love Field.
Virgin made the move on Monday as the Wright Amendment expired, which limited coast-to-coast flights from Love Field for 35 years.
The ban was originally put in place so D/FW could grow its operations 40 years ago.
Virgin flew to Los Angeles and San Francisco from D/FW. It’s now expanding that service to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. In two weeks, Virgin will also begin direct flights to New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
Among the VIPs on the first flight to Love Field were U.S. Congressman Marc Veasey, State Sen. Dan Branch and Dallas City Council members Tennell Atkins, Dwaine Caraway, Carolyn Davis and Adam Medrano.