DOT Blocks Virgin America Launch

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Virgin America's application to operate in the U.S. was tentatively denied Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Virgin America would have to demonstrate that it is independent of the Virgin Group and other non-U.S. citizens, and that the president of the company and at least two-thirds of the board of directors are U.S. citizens, before it can receive an operating certificate, the DOT said. Just last week, Virgin America said it passed a comprehensive FAA review and all it needed to start operations was the OK from the DOT. The airline had planned to start service in spring 2007 between San Francisco and New York. The airline already has 169 employees and has taken delivery of nine aircraft. Virgin America has 14 days to file an objection to the proposed decision. A spokesman for the airline told The Associated Press on Wednesday that a response to the announcement was being prepared.