Virgin America has appointed Holly Nelson as CFO following the resignation of Robert Dana.
Nelson joins the startup in the midst of revived questions about its US citizenship and after the carrier released financial results showing a fourth quarter 2008 operating loss of $27 million.
She has 23 years of financial experience in the aviation industry, most recently serving as senior vice president finance and controller at XOJET. She also served as senior vice president, controller and chief accounting officer at JetBlue Airways, where she worked for six years.
Additionally, Nelson has held senior positions with Northwest Airlines, Eos Airlines, Nabisco Brands and KPMG.
She will join the airline following Dana's last day on 31 March.
Dana assumed the CFO position in June 2004 and played a role in attracting US investors. He also aided the carrier in its lengthy battle to convince US regulators the carrier met US citizenship and control requirements.
Dana also crafted Virgin America's first business plan and raised $1.2 billion in financing for the carrier's Airbus A320 fleet, which will reach 28 by the first quarter of 2009.
He cited personal reasons for his decision to leave the airline.
The leadership change occurs as Virgin America is being forced to defend its ownership structure as Alaska Airlines has launched a public campaign asking US regulators to examine its rival's citizenship status amid reports its US investors have put their stake back to its UK-based parent company Virgin Group.
US Federal law requires US-based carriers be at least 75% owned and controlled by American investors.
Virgin America dismissed Alaska's claims as merely a competitor concerned about losing in its hometurf. Since Virgin America has entered Alaska markets, fares have dropped 14% and traffic has increased 34%, a Virgin America spokeswoman says.