$5,400 Seat on Virgin America's First Flight

Virgin America, a new low-cost carrier, started flying today, offering introductory fares from New York to San Francisco for as low as $138.

But David W. Loewy's ticket cost a bit more.

The North Carolina health-care consultant shelled out $5,400 to be one of the first passengers on the new airline.

That's right — $5,400, and he won't even be flying first class.

Loewy won an online auction to snag two seats on the celebrity-filled inaugural flight.

Steven Colbert from Comedy Central was expected to christen the plane at the gate.

His fellow passengers include Richard Branson, head of the Virgin group, as well as CariDee English, winner of "America's Next Top Model," celebrity DJ (and Lindsay Lohan buddy) Samantha Ronson and a performance by the band Cold War Kids.

"It has little to do with the celebrities," Loewy told ABC News. "And quite frankly, I don't know anybody on the flight besides Richard Branson."

Simply put, Loewy loves to fly.

"Aviation is really my love and hobby, as well," he said. "I was on eBay, and it popped up, and I said, 'Hey, that would be cool.'"

Loewy owns a Cesena 172 and used to fly business jets for the Air Force. In December, he took a trip to Europe after bidding on first-class tickets on American Airlines for a charity.

So, why this flight on Virgin?

"Because it's only the inaugural fight going out of JFK tomorrow," Loewy said. "There really wasn't any rhyme or reason. … I thought it would be kind of neat to go on."

By the way, Loewy has also purchased several other inaugural items on eBay, such as invitations to presidential inaugurations, including those of William Howard Taft, Dwight Eisenhower, Theodore Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge.

Across the country, John Wilschke also decided to spend big bucks to ride on one of Virgin's first flights.

He won two tickets on the first Los Angeles to San Francisco flight for $2,125 on the eBay auction. The auction money went to a charity chosen by Virgin — the KIPP Foundation, which operates charter schools across the country.

Wilschke, an Orange County resident, is president of a small company that develops aircraft performance software and counts Virgin as one of its clients.

Loewy, Wilschke and their guests also get a free night at the Clift Hotel in San Francisco and two VIP tickets to Virgin America's launch party tonight at the Ruby Skye nightclub.

Asked whether he was excited about the celebrities or the launch party, Wilschke said no.

"I'm an engineer. I wanted to be on the flight," he said.

For the New York to San Francisco flight, Loewy and his friend might be the only paying customers.

Abby Lunardini, director of corporate communications for Virgin America, said that all the rest of the seats were given to celebrities and other guests.

The flight — like the airline — aims to be fun.

"It's sort of geared toward folks who want to be entertained and have a little fun while flying," Lunardini said. "At Virgin America, we're hoping to do things a little different."

While a budget airline, Virgin offers in-seat entertainment systems that include 25 movies and 3,000 songs, and has sharp, hip colors throughout the cabin.

The airline faced an uphill battle to start, with many mainstream carriers fighting it with regulators, saying that Branson's involvement violated U.S. ownership rules. The government eventually relented and has given Virgin, a cousin to Virgin Atlantic, permission to fly in the United States.

If you missed your chance to bid on Virgin's first flights, don't fret — at least one other airline is about to put some exclusive first seats on the auction block.

Singapore Airlines will be the first to fly the Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger aircraft, in October.

Auctionwire, which designed and marketed Virgin's auction, will also handle the Singapore Airlines bidding.

The auction starts later this month on eBay and proceeds go to charity. Winning bidders will be on the first flight from Singapore to Sydney, and back again. They will also receive a personalized ceremonial certificate, confirming they were part of the first-ever commercial A380 flight.

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