American Airlines VP David Cush to head Virgin America Airlines

Startup airline Virgin America has chosen David Cush, an American Airlines (AA) executive, to become its new CEO. He will take over on 10 December, replacing outgoing CEO Fred Reid. Cush was AA's senior vice president of global sales at Fort Worth, Texas.

Reid, who helped start Virgin America last August, has to leave the airline by February 2008 as a condition of the airline''s certification by the Department of Transportation. The DoT determined that Reid might be beholden to foreigners - a violation of US law - because he was hired in 2004 by British billionaire Richard Branson, founder and part-owner of Virgin America.

Cush's job will be anything but cushy. Virgin America has earned praise from many passengers for its luxury amenities like leather seats, superior entertainment and attentive service. But with rising fuel prices hurting profitability and cut-throat competition keeping fares low, times aren't easy. Besides, Virgin America is trying to maintain a high on-time performance records at delay-prone airports like San Francisco and New York''s JFK.

A 20-year AA veteran, Cush was responsible for sales and distribution activities worldwide in his most recent job. But he also has operating experience, having been vice president of AA's St Louis hub, where he was responsible for more than 200 daily departures and handled more than 7,000 employees.

Privately held Virgin America serves San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Washington, DC. The airline has 566 employees, and will fly to San Diego from February 2008. The airline plans to hire about 1,000 employees and reach 10 cities by August 2008