Virgin America posts first full-year profit

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Virgin America, the niche airline backed by British billionaire Richard Branson, earned its first full-year profit just in time for a possible initial public stock offering this year.

The company said Wednesday that it earned $14.2 million in the fourth quarter, pushing the airline into the black for all of 2013, with full-year net income of $10.1 million.

After losing money in the first quarter of 2013, the Burlingame, Calif., company has turned a profit in every quarter since.

The fourth-quarter results compared with a loss of $25 million a year earlier. Revenue rose 3 percent to $359.9 million.

The airline spent 5 percent less on fuel and 26 percent less on aircraft rent than a year ago, but labor costs rose 13 percent and spending on marketing and airport landing fees also increased.

The full-year profit compared with a 2012 loss of $145.5 million. Revenue rose 7 percent to $1.42 billion, and the average fare climbed 4 percent to $203.70. Passenger traffic in miles flown fell 1 percent.

Virgin, which was founded in 2007 and has a fleet of 53 planes, recently won the right to buy some of American Airlines’ takeoff and landing rights at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Reagan National Airport outside Washington. It wants gates that American must give up at Dallas Love Field.

CEO David Cush often says the aim of the company is to go public. He said last year that an IPO could occur in 2014, but that it might be pushed into the second half of the year.

The airline declined to comment Wednesday on its IPO plans.