Virgin America buys 40 Airbus A320s

Virgin America, the upstart San Francisco-based airline backed in part by Britain's Sir Richard Branson, announced a major expansion of its fleet Thursday.

Virgin is ordering 40 new Airbus A320 airliners and taking options on 20 more. With that order and planes from other sources, the airline expects its fleet to be 90 aircraft by 2016.

Alaska, headquartered in SeaTac, has fought with Virgin America on the West Coast. That fight has ignited fierce fare wars up and down the coast with fares between Seattle and San Francisco as low as $49 each way.

Alaska has complained unsuccessfully to the federal government that Virgin America is violating the rule against foreign airline ownership. That rule limits foreign control of domestic carriers to a minority stake.