NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Virgin America on Tuesday celebrated the launch of service out of Newark Liberty International Airport.
The airline last week began offering three daily nonstop flights each to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson was at the airport for a red carpet reception for travelers heading to Los Angeles.
The visit came a day after a report ranked Virgin America the best of the 14 largest U.S. airlines for 2012.
The report from Wichita State University in Kansas and the University of Nebraska at Omaha ranked the airlines based on on-time arrivals, mishandled bags, consumer complaints and passengers who bought tickets but were turned away because flights were overbooked.
Virgin's cross-country service will compete with United Airlines, by far the largest carrier at Newark Liberty. United announced this week the signing of a 20-year lease extension in Newark.
Since Virgin began service out of New Jersey, the airline said fares on the routes have dropped by as much as 40 percent.
Virgin also offers nonstop flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to JFK International Airport in New York. Headquartered in Burlingame, Calif., the airline offers in-flight WiFi on all its flights.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said Virgin America's arrival in Newark not only provides more travel options for flyers, it also strengthens business ties between New Jersey and California.
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