Virgin America comes to Toronto - good news for consumers...and showgirls?
Virgin America's first flight into Toronto landed today around 4:25 p.m. Toronto time, and consumers should've been out at Pearson with bottles of champagne.
Canadian sparkling wine would do just fine, of course, but it's a big
deal, because any time there's more competition we all win.
The fares aren't quite what they had hoped, and Virgin America officials say that's because of heavy fees at Pearson. Too bad, but there's still nothing terrible about a $509 return flight, which is what I got when I pretended to book a July 21-July 26 flight from Toronto to San Francisco and back.
Virgin America says their Toronto to Los Angeles and San Francisco flights start at $195 and include wireless internet (hurray!!!!!), live television (World Cup, here we come), leather seats, snacks on demand, mood-lighting, video games, 3,000 MP's for listening and a choice of your own movie.It'll be interesting to see how Air Canada reacts. Not to mention WestJet. WestJet chief Gregg Saretsky admitted recently that his company has lower brand awareness in Toronto than upstart Porter Airlines.
``We do suffer in Eastern Canada from a low top-of-mind awareness,'' he told a transportation conference in New York. ``I'm almost embarrassed to say that in the Toronto market we have a lower brand awareness than does Porter."
Well, Gregg, now you have not only the wily Bob Deluce of Porter Airlines to worry about but Sir Richard Branson, who's not afraid to spend his money and who likes to make a splash, as you can see in the recent photo of him celebrating his airline's connections between London and Las Vegas.
I wrote that earlier today. Then, around 4:30 p.m., I got an email saying that WestJet is moving its vice president of sales, Duncan Bureau, to Toronto effective Aug. 1.
"With this move, WestJet will have a senior sales presence in Toronto to enhance the airline's support for the travel trade and corporate Canada," officials said in a press release. "With WestJet's continued expansion into the business and corporate markets, this move reflects how much WestJet values the travel trade and our corporate relationships in Central Canada. By having Duncan Bureau in Ontario, we will be better able to nurture these relationships for our mutual success."
It's quite a signficant move, I think, and one that only illustrates how much WestJet realizes the importance of the Toronto/eastern Canadian market.
As for Virgin, I had to miss their flight into Toronto today. But I was lucky enough to get invited to their "official" arrival in Toronto next Tuesday. They're starting with a 6:30 a.m. flight from LA to San Francisco, then departing for Pearson. They'll arrive in Toronto for a red carpet tarmac treatment around 4 p.m., then head down to the posh (I'm told) new Thompson Hotel on Wellington St. for a "private poolside, rooftop pre-party." Then, from nine p.m. to midnight, there's a Virgin America launch party at the Thompson. They told me to dress west coast casual, which has me a little worried. Probably my
Also appearing on the flight, I'm told, will be Toronto hip hop star Drake, as well as Jesse Metcalfe from Desperate Housewives, Gilles Marini from Brothers and Sisters and Kristin Cavallari from The Hills. I gotta admit I don't watch TV so I had to check who these folks were, but they seem to be pretty attractive and well-known in TMZ circles. The party next Tuesday certainly sounds a lot splashier than you'd likely see for a new Air Canada or WestJet flight. Or even Porter.
Let the airline publicity wars begin, I say.
On a side note, I had to chuckle when I felt that earthquake today. Not at the quake, which was rather sizable for these parts, but at the fact that it happened just a couple hours before the first Virgin America flight landed here from....San Francisco. Great timing, doncha think? But not a very nice welcome for our friends from California.
On a related note, Star artist Spencer Wynn sent a note around our newsroom shortly after the quake was felt and wondered if there was a "fake lake tsunami" at the G20 press building in Toronto, where they built an artificial lake to celebrate the joys of Muskoka for reporters bound to the city. A great line, Spencer.FAIRMONT ROYAL YORK DEAL
Here's a good concept. The Fairmont Royal York is celebrating the G20 summit of world leaders (it's in Toronto this weekend in case you've been sleeping under a rock) with what they call a T20 package.
Rates start at $159 for a prime downtown location in an historic hotel, and you get a Much More Toronto booklet with 20 discounts, such as 20 per cent off tickets to Jersey Boys (great show) or South Pacific, as well as discounts at the ROM, the Science Centre, Toronto Tours and the Steam Whistle Brewery. The deal is available June 28 through Sept. 6.