How To Fly On Virgin Atlantic’s Airbus A340 Before Retirement

Virgin Atlantic has plans in place to retire all of its Airbus A340s by the end of the year. With the recent arrival of its replacement, the A350-1000, we’re one step closer to seeing the end of the A340. If you’re keen to fly the iconic quad jet in Virgin livery before it disappears for good, here’s what you know about catching a flight on a Virgin Atlantic A340.

Virgin A340
All Virgin’s A340s will be gone by the end of the year. Photo: Wikimedia

End of an era for Virgin

Virgin Atlantic has six of the quad jet aircraft in service right now, all of which are the A340-600 variant. At one point they had 19, as well as ten A340-300s. The last A340-300 left the fleet in December 2014, and the A340-600s have been steadily exiting over the past few years.

The last A340-600, G-VBUG ‘Lady Bird’ left Virgin in February 2019, leaving just the current six in operation. All of these have been with Virgin since 2005 or 2006, so are all over 10 years old, and simply can’t compete with the newer twin engine options on the table.

Virgin thank you
Virgin painted a thank you on their A340. Photo: Virgin

The oldest in the fleet is G-VNAP ‘Sleeping Beauty Rejuvenated’ which has been with the carrier since February 2005 and is 14.6 years old. It carries the special livery ‘a big Virgin Atlantic thank you’, which was added in 2018 by way of thanking employees for their dedication. Although it’s the oldest in the fleet by just over a year, it may be that the carrier holds on to it for a little bit longer due to this livery.

Simple Flying reached out to Virgin Atlantic to see which A340 would be first to leave the fleet, but received no response by the time of publication.

The last Virgin A340 flights

Virgin’s schedule shows the A340 still operating flights through to the end of October 2019. The very final A340 flight is due to take place on October 26th 2019. This is, of course, subject to change as all airline schedules and equipment allocations are.

Virgin Lady in Red
The carrier’s very first A340 – Lady in Red. Photo: Virgin

If all goes to plan, the final flights of the A340-600 will take place on the London Heathrow (LHR) to New York (JFK) route. The very last flight will be VS 25, LHR-JFK, leaving London at 20:15 and arriving in JFK at 23:10, according to The Points Guy. It’s not clear whether a further ferry flight back to the UK is planned, or if the aircraft is being returned to a US based lessor or being stored in the US.

Five of the six A340s left in service work on the LHR-JFK route, and we already know that all four of the airline’s first A350s will be placed on this route. However, there is one more opportunity to fly the A350 prior to retirement.

The A340 also operates a flight between Heathrow and Delhi, VS300 and V301. The final flight on this route is expected to be outbound on September 30th, leaving London at 21:40, returning October 1st from Delhi at 13:40. This service will be replaced by an Airbus A330 initially, upgrading to a 787 Dreamliner later in the year.

Fleet renewal for Virgin

Of course, the A340 is not the only aircraft disappearing from Virgin’s fleet. Over the next couple of years, the British carrier is due to almost entirely overhaul its fleet configuration, with two new types arriving and three types being retired. The A340 and Boeing 747 will go, as will some of their older A330s, as the Airbus A350 and newer A330neo begin to arrive.

Virgin Atlantic A350
Virgins new A350 will be put on the LHR-JFK route. Photo: Virgin Atlantic/Twitter

Although the Boeing 747 is likely to stay in Virgin’s fleet until 2021, the A340 has a much more limited lifespan. If you’re keen to catch a VS A340 flight, you’ll need to be quick! Let us know if you are and what you thought of the experience.