Virgin America CEO Talks Expansion

Published by: Mike Goldman on 15th Jun 2011 | View all blogs by Mike Goldman
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Virgin America CEO Talks Expansion

Virgin America, the low-cost, high-service airline launched by British billionaire Richard Brand, is making a push to expand its presence in the American market.  The airline's CEO David Cush said in an interview with Reuters that the company is planning on extending its capacity by 35 percent in 2012 and another 10 percent the following year.

“We've had quite rapid growth and we're picking up growth again,” Cush explained.  He noted that the company wants to expand its fleet from the 35 Airbus A320s it has now to 57 by early 2013.  Last year, the company had planned on accelerating growth by leasing aircraft, but rising fuel costs and a lackluster economy forced the company to cancel those moves.  In the long term, Virgin America wants to increase the fuel efficiency of its Airbus fleet in the coming years, Cush said.

He indicated the company will order 30 Airbus A320neo jetliners equipped with CFM International's new LEAP engine beginning in 2016.  The new engine technology, which is still being developed, will help the airline to drastically cut emissions and increase fuel efficiency on the aircraft by 15 percent.  The estimated fuel savings per year, per aircraft, Cush said, would be close to $2 million.  That's a significant number considering the airline's overall fuel costs climbed 52 percent to over $83 million in 2011's first quarter.

Cush also indicated that Virgin America would be looking to compete more directly with its larger rivals in terms of transcontinental business from Newark Airport and Reagan National Airport in Washington.  Access at those airports is closely controlled by the Transportation Department due to crowding.

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