Virgin America Inc. pilots voted to join a union, nine months after flight attendants created the first organized labor group at the carrier.

The decision ended Virgin America’s status as the largest U.S. airline without a union for pilots, a distinction that Chief Executive Officer David Cush said had made it a target for organizers.

“We respect the decision by our pilots,” Virgin America said in a statement following the vote. “We will continue to work to serve the best interests of all our teammates and our airline as we move forward.”

Having unions probably will raise costs over time at the seven-year-old airline, which has about 600 pilots. Compensation and work rules will be frozen until a contract can be negotiated, a process that generally takes about three years, Cush has said.

About 58 percent of flight attendants voted in August to join the Transport Workers Union, becoming the first organized group at Virgin America. Negotiations for a contract are continuing.

The Burlingame, California-based airline operates 53 Airbus NV A320 airplanes on routes to 21 airports in the U.S. and Mexico.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at maryc.s@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Edward Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net Molly Schuetz, Bruce Rule

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Photo Credit: Virgin America became a target for union organizers because it was the largest non-union airline in the U.S. Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times/MCT)