VirginAmerica bemoans delays

Virgin America on Wednesday alleged that Continental Airlines is delaying its certification with the Department of Transportation by filing repeated requests for information.

Citing concerns over foreign control of American-based companies, Continental last Thursday asked the department to further investigate Virgin’s ownership. In response, Virgin America filed a motion on Wednesday with the department to strike the request.

The Burlingame-based airline — founded by Virgin Atlantic mogul Richard Branson and now owned mostly by American shareholders — hopes to start flying out of San Francisco International Airport this year.

But Virgin says Continental, along with other airlines, has held up the process by filing four detailed proposals and requests for information and further investigation in five months.

Continental spokesman David Messing said there are “very real” foreign control issues raised by the application, and questions why Continental’s would-be competitor is, in Continental’s view, rushing through the application process. Virgin America spokeswoman Stacy Geagan said the process, which has taken more than a year, typically takes between six and 12 months.

“They’re portraying it as an effort on our part to keep an airline from starting up, and that has nothing to do with it,” Messing said. “Many new airlines have started up without us raising an eyebrow, but those were done with full accordance of U.S. law in mind.”

Geagan estimates the airline would be up and running within three months of DOT approval.

Anne LeClair, president and CEO of the San Mateo County Convention and Visitors Bureau, has sent a letter to the department expressing support for Virgin America’s approval.

“We met with them ages ago and everyone is very anxious for them to start,” LeClair said.

tramroop@examiner.com

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