Cabin crew at Virgin America have voted to join the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU).


TWU international vice-president Thom McDaniel said: “Virgin America was the last completely non-union, major airline in the US.”


Virgin America is 22% owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. The carrier, based in San Francisco, has been operating since 2007 and recently announced plans for a public listing.


The vote by 830 Virgin America flight attendants saw 58% vote in favour of representation by the TWU. The carrier had about 870 cabin crew at the start of the summer season.


McDaniel said: “We’re especially proud that it was a flight attendant group [who voted to join] because they have such a big impact on the [airline’s] operation with their customer contact.”


The ballot was conducted by the US National Mediation Board. Virgin America crew had voted down a similar proposal almost three years ago.


McDaniel said: “The company made a lot of promises during that [previous] election and many of them it didn’t keep.”


A Virgin America spokeswoman said: “We respect the decision by our InFlight team mates to choose third-party representation.”


The vote was hailed by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), of which the TWU is a member.


ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: “Flight attendants across the world are looking for a positive voice in the workplace – fair work rules, fair compensation and due process when they are disciplined.”


Crumlin added: “The company ran a very anti-union campaign. The ITF is very pleased with the result.”