Tickets for Virgin America's first flight go for $5400

Posted by Mark Raby

San Francisco (CA) - A seat on Virgin America's inaugural flight from New York to San Francisco did not come cheap for the winning bidder of an eBay auction that ended yesterday.

Virgin America is a new airline service that will begin operation on Wednesday, August 8.  The first flight from New York's JFK airport to its hub in San Francisco was not open to the public.  The invite-only flight will include live music performances, complimentary food and drinks, and will be filled with celebrities, including Virgin founder and knighted billionaire Sir Richard Branson.

In addition to two round-trip tickets, the eBay auction included an invitation to Virgin America's ground-level party in San Francisco and one night in a nearby hotel.  After 64 bids, a bidder named "hppmceo" nabbed the package with a bid of exactly $5400.

A similar auction for Virgin America's first flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco topped out at $2125.01.  The shorter flight will not have the same star power but the winner will also be invited to the party in San Francisco and one night at the same hotel.

Virgin America offers a high-tech in-flight entertainment center, with seat-back monitors for watching live and on-demand TV, pay-per-view movies, and thousands of MP3 files.  Its flagship service routes include service between New York/JFK, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and its hub, San Francisco.  Although the auctions garnered big numbers, normal flights are competitively priced, with LAX to San Francisco trips beginning at around $45 each way, and cross-country round-trips for under $300.

The airline is Virgin's first big push to US travel, expanding to its London-based Virgin Atlantic, which services large cities in North America but only with flights to foreign countries.  The two airlines will operate independently of each other.

All proceeds of the two auctions are earmarked to the KIPP Foundation, a charity for primary and secondary education throughout the United States.