Virgin America reports first profitable year since its creation

Virgin America
Virgin America ranked highest among the nation’s top 15 carriers in a study of overall airline quality. Above, a file photo of a Virgin America jet.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

For the first time since California-based Virgin America was launched, the airline backed by billionaire Richard Branson has reported an entire profitable year.

For 2013, Virgin America’s net income was $10.1 million, compared with a loss of $145.4 million in 2012, the airline reported Wednesday.

The news comes about a month after sources reported that the airline plans to go public later this year. Virgin America Chief Executive David Cush has previously said he was waiting for the carrier to show a profit for several quarters before initiating a public listing.

“2013 was a year of tremendous progress for Virgin America,” Cush said in a statement Wednesday.


The airline, based near San Francisco, was launched in 2007 and has won numerous awards and accolades from travel magazines and others for its service. But the carrier did not report two consecutive profitable quarters until last year.

The airline reported carrying 6.3 million passengers in 2013, up from 6.2 million in 2012 while the average fares jumped to $204 in 2013 from $195 in the previous year.

The airline filled slightly more seats, an average of 80% in 2013, up from 79%, and generated about 8% more revenue per mile flown per passenger, the carrier reported.

For 2013, the airline reported a 6.9% increase in revenue, while operating costs only grew by 1.5%.


But Virgin America’s bright financial news is not unique to the carrier. Over the past year or so stable fuel prices and steady growth in travel demand have helped nearly every major U.S. carrier to report relatively strong earnings.

Virgin America plans to invest some of its profits into expanding its fleet. It has ordered 40 Airbus A320 planes, to be delivered over the next six years.


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