US Airways-AA Merger Prompts Virgin America to Suspend Philly Service

Trendy airline operates two routes out of Philadelphia International

Virgin America is suspending its service in Philadelphia more than two years after first flying into the city.

The airline announced Friday that its routes between Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) and Los Angeles and San Fransciso will stop operating as of October 6.

The reason: they need the planes for flights out of other cities.

Jennifer Thomas, a spokeswoman for the airline, says Philadelphia has been a strong market, but that new gate openings at Love Field (DAL) in Dallas, TX, Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington, D.C. and New York's LaGuardia International (LGA) is putting a strain on the number of planes the airline needs.

"Because our next aircraft deliveries are not until 2015, we needed to reduce flying in other markets given the longer-term network potential at DAL, DCA and LGA," Thomas said.

Thomas said the new gate openings offer a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity to grow in those other cities.

Virgin is gaining the new gates as a result of the merger between US Airways and American Airlines. The combined airline was forced to give up those gates as part of consumer protections attached to the deal. US Airways is the dominant carrier at Philadelphia International and Philly is a hub for the airline.

The airline first started flying out of Philadelphia in April 2012 to much fanfare. Virgin currently operates three flights out of the city daily. Thomas said as the airline's fleet grows, they hope to resume service in Philly.

"We appreciate the support of PHL airport leadership and Philadelphia city leaders – who have been incredibly supportive business partners, as well as our teammates and guests there. We hope to be back in Philly in the future," Thomas said.

PHL spokeswoman Victoria Lupica says the airport, which handled 30.5 million passengers last year, is disappointed by the decision.

"We understand that the suspension of service was prompted by a unique opportunity that has been presented to Virgin, and based upon our discussions, look forward to this award-winning airline's return to Philadelphia in the future," she said.

Travelers who already have tickets after the suspension date can get a full refund or fly out of Newark, N.J., Thomas said.

Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

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