Virgin America Inc. flight attendants voted to establish the first union at the airline partly owned by British billionaire Richard Branson, ending Virgin’s status as the largest U.S. carrier without organized labor.
Collective bargaining with the Transport Workers Union raises the prospect of higher operating costs for the airline, which filed to go public last month. The carrier reported second-quarter net income of $37 million on Tuesday after posting its first annual profit in 2013.
The vote to unionize Wednesday follows a decision in April by pilots at JetBlue Airways Corp. to join the Air Line Pilots Assn., ending that carrier’s status as the largest nonunion U.S. airline at that time. JetBlue flight attendants also are seeking an election on TWU representation.
“With this vote, flight attendants will have a say on how to further improve Virgin along with their own work lives,” John Samuelsen, TWU International executive vice president, said in a statement. “This is a chance to make the airline better for both customers and workers.”
Virgin America’s attendants supported the TWU with 58% of the ballots cast, the labor group said. It was the second union vote for attendants at Burlingame, Calif.-based Virgin America, who rejected the union in December 2011.
Negotiations for a first contract will begin this year.
“We respect the decision by our inflight teammates to choose third-party representation,” said Jennifer Thomas, a spokeswoman for Virgin America.