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Virgin in the Sky: Now Boarding

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Sir Richard Branson's SFO-based harem of nubile air carriages wants you on board.

Beginning this morning, cut-rate tickets are on sale for LAX-SFO flights on Virgin America. 5 flights daily are scheduled to shuttle between the two airports starting August 8 -- with coach seats going for $44 each way (before tax). First-class Virgin tickets are also offered at the introductory price of $149 each way.

While numerous airlines have been grounded, bought out, or otherwise disappeared in recent years, Virgin is the first operation to take to the California skies in 20 years. Jump on these great rates now -- only Southwest comes close, and on very limited tickets per flight in that case. Virgin will take you for a ride on any A320 coach seat for the $88 r/t fare. They're also for sale on Orbitz (unlike Southwest), so head there if when the Virgin America booking system gets too bogged down this morning.

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Virgin will be competing with JetBlue on it's two daily SFO-JFK offerings, but they have no competition at these rights for the LAX-SFO route (of course, there are numerous daily LAX/ONT/BUR/LGB -> SJC/OAK flights on Southwest, and a new LGB -->SFO flight).

Stay tuned for future cross-country routes from LAX to New York and DC. But for now, grab a seat on one of these fresh A320s and get the most out of your 45 minutes on Virgin air -- Check it:

Passengers on Virgin America's ten new Airbus A320 and A319 airplanes, which are roughly the size of Boeing's 737 jets and sport names like "Jefferson Airplane" and "Mach Daddy", can watch satellite TV from screens; order food via an interactive menu on the screens and talk to other flyers via an interplane chatroom. There are massage chairs in first class. And the planes have mood lighting - nine different lighting schemes that mimic dawn to dusk.

There is a bizarre catch, however, which could translate into free travel/cash. Virgin America is not yet cleared for takeoff....

AP Photo of Grace Slick by Paul Sakuma

Small print spotted via Orbitz:

Please Note: Virgin America does not currently have authority from the Department of Transportation to operate the services for which your ticket is being issued. You may, upon request, cancel your ticket and obtain a full refund from Virgin America at any time before the start of operations.
If operations have not started prior to your travel date, Virgin America will make reasonable efforts to arrange substitute air transportation for you. If substitute transportation cannot be arranged, Virgin America will refund to you 200% of the price paid for your ticket.

Hmm... so, purchase as many tickets as you want as long as you cancel what you don't need before "start of operations" or August 8?

Technicality... or what? Virgin's stated cancellation policy -- $40 per passenger per change/cancellation (no charge first class) -- seems reasonable -- and who are we to doubt Branson?

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