Now we can find out if the hype is justified.
Virgin America, which enjoys a cultlike status as one of the nation's hippest, friendliest and most convenient airlines, announced Thursday that it will be joining the scrum at O'Hare as of May 25.
Virgin will be flying nonstop from Chicago to Los Angeles and San Francisco or with layovers to Las Vegas, San Diego and Seattle.
Since launching in August 2007, Virgin America has bred some of the most loyal customers in the industry, in large part because of its perks: free Wi-Fi, an outlet and television screen at every seat and friendly, attractive flight attendants.
Virgin America was known to be eyeing O'Hare for a while but was having a hard time leasing gate space.
Tribune reporters Julie Johnsson and Jon Hilkevitch are reporting that "a breakthrough came last week when a deal was reached in which Delta Air Lines will hand the city control of the L Concourse in O'Hare's Terminal 3."
George Hobica, president and founder of airfarewatchdog.com, said he expects Virgin America to do well in Chicago because of its "quality, service and cachet" rather than price. Virgin America often advertises low fares, but there are so few seats available at those prices that they don't wind up being part of what fliers value about the airline.
"If you like American, you'll usually find a better price on American," he said. "But people love the Wi-Fi, the service and the food. They are the Four Seasons hotel of the air, or perhaps the Kimpton – stylish, and with a lot of brand loyalty."