Delays are death to any airline, and Virgin America has been facing a big one. Executives at the startup had hoped they\u2019d already be celebrating their inaugural flight, but they\u2019ve yet to receive final approval from the Department of Transportation\u2014thanks to a concerted lobbying effort by a group of legacy carriers. Virgin America submitted nearly 1,000 pages of corporate formation documents to the DoT last December, and within a week Continental, Delta, United and American filed motions to stay Virgin America\u2019s application based largely on laws that prohibit a foreign investor from owning 50 percent or more of an airline or more than 25 percent of its voting rights.\u201cVirgin America\u2019s application raised concerns about the ownership issue,\u201d says Ashley R. Miller, a spokeswoman for Delta, \u201cand we expressed our concerns to the DoT.\u201d Virgin maintains that it\u2019s in compliance with the rules. \u201cYou can sense the fear of the incumbent airlines,\u201d says Henry Harteveldt, vice president of travel research for Forrester. \u201cThey saw what happened when JetBlue entered the market, and they\u2019re terrified of this company that will try to \u2018out-JetBlue\u2019 JetBlue.\u201d The challenge to Virgin\u2019s application is not without precedent. The legacy carriers filed motions against the startup of Legend Airlines in the late 1990s. Legend ultimately got DoT approval, but not before spending much of its funding defending itself. It flew only a few months in 2000 before declaring bankruptcy. Harteveldt, however, does not think much of this tactic.\u201cIf [the legacy carriers] took the money they\u2019ve spent on legal costs associated with this and invested that into their product offerings\u2014on-board TV, in-flight Internet, CRM\u2014or if they\u2019d taken the past 12 months and built up their customer relationships or their loyalty marketing programs, they\u2019d be in much better shape to compete with Virgin,\u201d he says.Not everyone agrees with Harteveldt. \u201cIt\u2019s a very competitive industry, and one more greased pig in the race doesn\u2019t do the competition any good,\u201d says Tim Sieber, vice president and general manager of aviation consultancy The Boyd Group. \u201cIf I were [a legacy carrier], I\u2019d send a pack of lawyers out to trip up the competition too. It\u2019s cheaper than trying to compete with them. Worst-case scenario, they\u2019ve pushed Virgin America back four to five months.\u201dEvery day an airline isn\u2019t flying, it\u2019s losing money but, in fact, this extra time on the ground could be beneficial for Virgin\u2014at least for its IT. While Virgin is grounded (it now expects to take off in early 2007), other airlines, like Calgary-based WestJet, are going into production with the new Aires reservation system Virgin purchased.\u201cThe vendor can learn from their real-world experience with the application and take steps to make sure things go better for Virgin America,\u201d says Harteveldt.