God save the Queen! And Sir Richard Branson, too.

I've long been a huge fan of his Virgin Atlantic, the British airline that flies nonstop to London from several major hubs over here in the colonies, including San Francisco and Los Angeles. I have in-laws over the pond, and Virgin, with its comfortable coach class and individualized TV screens (worth paying extra for when importing children overseas), made me a regular customer.

Now Branson's low-fare Virgin American (which had quite an uphill battle to even operate in this country) has taken up residence at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), causing the other low-cost carriers such as Alaska, Southwest and United such a snit! They've been forced to match or lower their fares just to keep up with the shiny Virgin, which has offered promotional prices as low as $44 one-way.

Even perennial low-fare favorite JetBlue has been forced to add routes and lower fares.

The story in the LA Times quotes Paul Haney, deputy executive director of LAS, as saying, "We've become a hotbed of competition...I don't know if we could say that without Virgin America."

Since all of this is in my backyard, I'm right chuffed, indeed. (Los Angeles translation: Totally stoked.) Cheap fares to San Francisco and New York? God bless Capitalism and market forces. And Happy flying, one and all!

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