A Profitable First Time for Virgin America

San Francisco-based airline records operating profit

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Sir Richard Branson can be proud of his airborne empire's newest offshoot.

    You have to love an airline that brought cheerleaders to its launch party.

    Virgin America, which is headquartered in Burlingame, Calif., right outside San Francisco International Airport, had more to cheer about Friday: It announced its first-ever operating profit of $5.1 million for its fiscal third quarter.

    Revenue rose 38 percent to $157.9 million over the same period last year, and the airline recorded a net loss of $5.9 million. (Net and operating income often differ; the latter is sometimes seen as a better measure of the performance of a company's core business.)

    The narrow operating profit margin was achieved largely thanks to much lower fuel costs.

    The profits are good news for Bay Area passengers, since Virgin is now poised to expand service, adding 18-20 aircraft to its current fleet of 28 planes over the next two years.

    And hopefully the company will also spare some money on the quirky extras that make it a true product of Silicon Valley -- like the Wi-Fi, currently provided free on board by Google, and the Web video in the inflight entertainment system from Revision3 and Boing Boing.

    Owen Thomas hopes Virgin spends some of its profits on getting a more authentic banh mi sandwich on the menu. I mean, seriously, people. Go to the Tenderloin and try the real thing. It's not that far from Burlingame.