CEO of San Francisco-Based Virgin America Endorses Donald Trump

So that’s awkward. Dave Cush was taken by surprise with the question, and he does try to walk it back some.

Virgin America CEO David Cush stunned a San Francisco audience Wednesday night when he responded to a short, but controversial, question: “Trump or Hillary?”

..Cush first avoided the question: “What’s that? OK. I’m looking for the exit.” That sparked laughter from his audience of entrepreneurs and techies at the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center.

“I’m not going to give a one-word answer on this,” Cush said, before reaching back for the fastball: “I would say Trump.”

That drew a disapproving “ooooooooh” from the audience, with one woman — perhaps from the creative class that the airline caters to — commenting, “Really?” Another simply exclaimed, “In San Francisco?!”

Cush continued, “The reason is that I think — I don’t know if the time is there yet — but I think we need a change in the way this whole political process works right now.

“The political establishment in Washington has a very difficult job,” Cush said. “But I’ve become more disenchanted with career politicians.”

(And by the way, Jimmy McMillan has endorsed Trump, too.)

Cush wants people “who have done things and created things and had to compromise” and he thinks “Donald Trump’s all about compromise” although for someone who constantly reminds us that he “wrote the Art of the Deal” he couldn’t manage to get to walk himself back into Thursday night’s debate. He kept asking Fox News to give him cover, they didn’t have to toss their anchor Megyn Kelly but could they make a contribution to charity? Fox News wouldn’t do it, Trump couldn’t save face, he had talked himself into a corner.

Virgin America’s CEO said, “I’m a huge Clinton fan, but I find the process that Trump has ignited very interesting.” He also, understandably, asked “Maybe we can edit out those last two minutes.”

Maybe it’s just Trump’s long-term connection to the travel industry.

The Donald used to have a travel booking site (“The Art of the Travel Deal… There are plenty of other sites out there, but only gets the best deals.”). He owned an airline and went bust. And he stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

“Trump-air2” by Americasroof. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Trump is a long-time friends with Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker (and his hotels proactively solicit Muslim guests to come to the US).

There was even, apparently once a Trump Rewards Visa.

And Richard Branson is after all a showman as well, if one who isn’t quite as controversial.

I think what’s most revealing here is that it really lays bare the Trump phenomenon. Sure, among his supporters are there uneducated racists and authoritarians? Of course there are. You can single out subgroups of supporters of any major candidate, and they may even be more prevalent than usual here. But that’s not the whole of it, that’s not the driver. It doesn’t fully explain the support.

There’s people frustrated with politics who look past the crazy, and downplay or ignore the really scary stuff and see it as cutting through politics. Ultimately that view is probably wrong. One candidate can’t do that. They still deal with Congress. They still face constraints from a Supreme Court. And the federal bureaucracy is huge, and very difficult to turn. A President appoints heads of agencies but is not him or herself the head of the agencies. And political appointees are a tiny minority in each agency. It’s not just the incentives that face any given politician which lead them to accomplish less than what they promise, it’s the very system and structure of government. But Cush is looking for something.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Richard Branson is an Obama fan/supporter. I doubt he’d fancy Trump in the way the VX management figure did.

  2. I’m not American and don’t really have a dog in this fight. But, I think the “establishment” has only it’s self to blame. It makes sense that once in a while there will be a revolt of the public to push back against the corruption. Even for a public as dormant politically as the US citizens have become.

  3. @ Gary — Love it. It reminds me of your earlier blogging days when you talked more about politics. I enjoy hearing your view on politics, and I hope you are still a (liberal) Democrat! If only Trump would admit that he is actually a liberal himself…

  4. @Gene I certainly hope this blog does not become a source of political articles. I don’t come here to read about politics and I will go somewhere else for travel news if that becomes the case.

  5. If you think Mr. Trump talked himself into a corner by skipping the debate, you’ve clearly misread the situation.

    By most accounts across the political spectrum, I’d say Trump got exactly what he wanted and Megyn Kelly did his dirty work for him.

  6. @Gene

    Was this tongue in cheek with (liberal) Democrat :-). Gary works for the Mercatus Center at George Mason which is a libertarian think tank (with heavy funding from Koch).

  7. @JakefromMSP he avoided a misstep while letting the other candidates go after Cruz, so it likely works out for him. But he clearly saw it as a risky gambit he wanted back from, since everyone could have been piling on him without an ability to respond. He spoke with Fox multiple times on the day of the debate looking for a way back in.

  8. @Gene Trump isn’t a liberal, he’s an authoritarian who contributes to machine politicians that he now criticizes. He’s been purely transactional. I’m also not a registered Democrat or Republican.

  9. Good reason not to fly Virgin America!
    Hope about we let outsiders run the airline business? Hang on everyone, I will call my plumber and see what he has going on. He might be less likely to antagonize his loyal customers than the CEOs of Delta, United and American, based on my experience.

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