Virgin America unveils new Peninsula training center


Four years ago, Branson created an airline. Now, he's back to expand it -- and it starts with a million-dollar replica of the inside of a Branson jetliner.

"I will say that it is the finest cabin trainer there is in this land," Virgin America CEO David Cush said.

Cush explained the simulator is at company headquarters in Burlingame because within six months, Virgin America will have twice as many airplanes as it did a year ago. Those planes will need crews, and those crew members will all come to the Bay Area for training.

"How to load bags in the bin, how to board aircraft, we can do all types of these things, all types of things on this replica that we couldn't before," Cush said.

Virgin America may be the new kid in town, but it plans to use customer service to compete with the big boys.

"I must admit I've always been baffled about the way the airline industry doesn't seem to worry too much about its customers; I mean it's just like herding cattle on board planes and herding them off," Branson said.

To hear Branson tell it, it seems to be working. As United and American Airlines reduce the size of their base operations at SFO, Virgin America's presence is growing. Despite the uncertain economy, the airline intends to add some 500 jobs every year for the next few years.

Branson considers it almost a responsibility.

"I think every company in America that's got any spare cash should be out there expanding and creating jobs and that's the way to get America on its feet again," Branson said.

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