Three years ago, Virgin America faced a dilemma. It held some of the most desirable delivery slots from Airbus for new narrowbody models slated to arrive from 2016-19. But the airline was not making money, and five years after its founding, with no clear path to profit, it deferred many of the orders in an attempt to shore up its books. The strategy worked—Virgin America reported a net profit in 2014, excluding special items, of $84.4 million—but it left the airline with a hole ...

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