Virgin America Inc. flight attendants voted to establish the first union at the airline partly owned by U.K. billionaire Richard Branson, ending its 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 July 28 for an initial public offering. The carrier reported second-quarter net income of $37 million yesterday after posting its first annual profit in 2013.

Today’s vote follows a decision in April by pilots at JetBlue Airways Corp. to join the Air Line Pilots Association, 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.

Virgin America’s attendants supported the TWU with 58 percent of the ballots cast, the labor group said in a statement. It was the second union vote for attendants at Burlingame, California-based Virgin America, who rejected the TWU in December 2011.

“Virgin America bills itself as an ‘upscale’ airline and prides itself on that service that ‘team members’ offer,” said John Samuelsen, TWU International executive vice president, in a statement. “With this vote, flight attendants will have a say on how to further improve Virgin along with their own work lives. This is a chance to make the airline better for both customers and workers.”

–With assistance from Michael Sasso in Atlanta.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at 

Photo Credit: Virgin America flight attendants line the red carpet at Love Field in Dallas, Friday, April 25, 2014. Max Faulkner / Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT