Virgin America Seat Factor Improves but Ominous Signs Lie Ahead

Last Updated Mar 21, 2008 1:40 PM EDT

Taking a look at Virgin America's December DOT numbers, we can actually see some signs of improvement. December load factors, though generally dismal, did break 70 percent on the LAX to JFK route. The long hauls tended to be more full than the half-full short hauls, but as we know, long hauls need to pay for a lot more fuel and high load factor doesn't mean profitability.

Still, things seem to be improving, but not all is good for the airline by the Bay. First off, JetBlue will be entering Virgin's best performing route in May. That's right, they'll lay down a handful of nonstops right on top of Virgin America between LAX and JFK, and that's bound to hurt.

Another bad sign? Late last week, Virgin America asked the DOT to keep their Form 41 data confidential. Form forty-what?

The data I'm looking at right now is part of Form 41, but they clearly aren't too concerned about traffic data. It's the financial data that they don't want to get out. That comes out quarterly, and the results from the airline's first full quarter of operation will be due in a couple of weeks. They clearly don't want to share it, and they've asked for an exemption to allow them to keep their numbers quiet until they've reached $1 billion in annual revenue. That's a long way away, and I can't imagine they're going to be successful here.

My guess is that this request isn't going anywhere, but it can't hurt to try. Of course the airline wants to hide competitive information. Who doesn't? This will at least delay the release of the probably dismal numbers until the final ruling comes out. Until then, I'll just keep an eye on the information I can have.