Virgin America soars in its third quarter

Virgin America has cracked the airline growth code in the U.S. Despite a travel market slump that shows almost no signs of recovering and an industry with perpetual financial and operational woes, the start-up carrier has shown that strong financials don't have to be a dream for the embattled business. Only two years old, and living most of its life in a severe recession, Virgin America has demonstrated that airlines don't have to rely on bailouts.

For the third quarter of 2009, Virgin America posted revenues of $157.9 million, a year-over-year increase of 38.3%, largely because of improved unit costs and record load factors -- the latter improving by 5.2 percentage points to 86.6% from the same quarter the previous year. The increase was possible even with a 36.5% increase in scheduled service capacity. Meanwhile, costs per available seat-mile fell 33.9% -- 24.4% when you take fuel out of the equation. Virgin America was able to add capacity at a rather low marginal cost. Though privately held, the airline is disclosing its financial results ahead of Department of Transportation requirements.