February 29 2008: 2:43 PM EST

Flying smart

Fred Reid, 57, CEO, Virgin America

By Eugenia Levenson, writer-reporter

(Fortune Magazine) -- Talk about a long wait for takeoff. After stints at Lufthansa and Delta (where he was president), Fred Reid has spent three years trying to get Virgin America off the ground. Though the Department of Transportation initially withheld approval, citing too much foreign control by Richard Branson's Virgin Group, the low-cost carrier finally got the go-ahead in May after restructuring. Flights between San Francisco and New York - featuring mood lighting, leather seats, and a deluxe entertainment system - begin this month. We caught up with Reid at VA's Burlingame, Calif., headquarters to talk travel.

DAYS ON THE ROAD: 100 to 150.

CRASH PAD: The Bristol in Paris is incredible. Jack Welch used to go over to Europe on his jet, and he'd park at the Bristol for about a month and fly everywhere - Moscow, Italy, England - from there.

ONBOARD: Noise is tiring, so I put on my Bose noise-canceling headset. I also carry a little iPod shuffle. Do you really need more than 250 songs?

FAVORITE AIRPORTS: Munich and Dubai. They're easy to navigate, and they have tons to offer: food, spas, places to sleep.

CARRY-ON: A little-known company called Glaser Designs in San Francisco makes really durable weekenders. I've had their stuff for years because it lasts.

TOP SHOP: Santa Maria Novella in SoHo in New York City. It's run by a 400-year-old company in Florence that has everything in the world of shampoos and scents.

LOCAL SPOT: One of my favorite bookstores is Browser Books in San Francisco. I've been going there for 25 years.

NIGHT OUT: I like walking the streets of Colaba in Mumbai really late at night. It's where the Taj Mahal Hotel is, where I started my first job as a management trainee. I'd get off at midnight and roam the cafés for hours.

SURF'S UP: Troncones in Mexico is a hidden gem for surfers. You can get a nice, clean room on the beach for $110.  To top of page