Making Flying Fun: Virgin America CEO David Cush to Speak May 5

Virgin America CEO David Cush, who has piloted the cutting-edge airline on a rapid ascent, will speak at Haas on Thursday, May 5, at 12:30 p.m. in the Wells Fargo Room.

Half of the seats at this Dean's Speaker Series lecture will be open to the Haas community; the remainder will be reserved for Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA students. Lunch will be served and registration is required. Registration details will be posted as the date approaches.

Cush took the controls at Virgin America in December 2007, just a few months after the airline's first plane took off. The company's mission from the start was to distinguish itself as a low-cost carrier with high-class service and a hipster image. Leather seats, mood lighting, Wi-Fi, and a touch-screen entertainment system with on-demand meals, movies, and video games are standard on its Airbus A-320 airplanes.

Virgin America, based in Burlingame, California, has been a client of the school's Haas@Work applied corporate innovation program and the offspring of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, which owns a 25 percent stake. In less than four years of operation, Cush has guided Virgin America's expansion to 15 cities, most recently adding service to Los Cabos and Cancun, Mexico, in December, along with Chicago beginning May 25. The privately held company has 1,900 employees and has carried 11 million travelers.

Cush came to Virgin after a 20-year career at American Airlines, where he held a variety of leadership roles in finance, marketing, operations, and customer service, including senior vice president of global sales. Cush was named one of the "Most Admired CEOs" in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times in 2009, while Virgin America was named Zagat's “Number One U.S. Airline in 2010” and Condé Nast Traveler's “Best Domestic Airline” for three consecutive years.