Virgin Atlantic Postpones Airbus A340 Retirement

Virgin Atlantic has unexpectedly delayed the retirement of the A340 by a few months. While only a small reprieve, it now looks like we’ll see the iconic quad jet in our skies until the 8th December.

Virgin A340 taking off
Virgin’s A340s will be with us a little longer. Photo: Adrian Pingstone via Wikimedia

Details of the flights

According to scheduling information shared by Routes Online, planned A340 services have been posted by Virgin Atlantic up until the 8th December. The routes these aircraft will be used on are the London to Delhi service as well as the London to New York route.

From October 28th until October 31st, an A340 will operate one flight per day to Delhi from London Heathrow. As the Delhi to London sector leaves the following day, the last scheduled flight will take place on November 1st.

G-VWEB surfer girl
G-VWEB “Surfer girl” could make another appearance. Photo: Eric Salard via Wikimedia

For the London Heathrow to New York JFK service, it seems all four of the remaining A340s will be used at some point on this route between now and the end of the year. From Routes Online, we have the following information:

  • VS003/004 will be operated by an A340 from October 27th to November 2nd on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • VS045/046 will be operated by an A340 from 28th October to 8th December every day. There are some days when it does not, largely between 27th October and 5th November, and on November the 19th the aircraft will operate service VS138.
  • VS009/010 will be flown by an A340 on the 29th October only.

These schedules, as always, are subject to change, so if you’re hoping to catch one of the final A340 flights from Virgin Atlantic, do double check the equipment before going to book.

The very last flights

Virgin Atlantic had previously removed the A340 from its schedules from October 26th. The last flight was due to be VS025, traveling from London to New York, with touchdown scheduled for 23:10. After this point, the airline was planning to cease using the A340 as all four of its incoming A350-1000s were placed on the LHR-JFK route.

Virgin A340
Virgin was originally retiring the A340 at the end of October. Photo: Bill Larkins via Wikimedia

The fact that there is still a requirement for A340 service heading into the winter suggests that perhaps things aren’t going according to schedule with the A350s. Inflight With James reported that Virgin’s A350 registered G-VPOP has popped off to Malta, perhaps to be worked on by Lufthansa Technik.

The Delhi service is a bit of a puzzle, as this was planned to be superseded by an A330, and later in the year a 787. It could be that the planned A330 is in for maintenance, or it could be any number of other reasons. We’ve reached out to Virgin for clarity on this, and will update as soon as we hear back.

Whatever the reason, the good news for avgeeks is there are now many more opportunities to fly the A340 in Virgin Atlantic livery. The very last flight will be the VS045/046 service between London and JFK. The original ‘last flight’ of the A340 was scheduled to terminate in JFK, suggesting the aircraft was being returned to a US lessor. However, it’s not clear at this stage whether this is the plan again, or whether the return flight will operate with the A340, ending its life at London Heathrow.

Which A340s are still working for Virgin?

According to data from Planespotters, five A340s remain operational for Virgin. These are G-VFIT (Dancing Queen), G-VWIN (Lady Luck), G-VWEB (Surfer Girl), G-VRED (Scarlet Lady) and G-VNAP (Sleeping Beauty Rejuvenated) which has the special “A Big Virgin Thank You” livery.

Virgin thank you
Virgin’s A340 with the special livery. Photo: Virgin

Between them, these aircraft have an average age of 13.5 years, which isn’t all that old for a big four engine bird like the A340. Hopefully many will go on to have long and happy lives with other carriers, as many of Virgin’s other A340s have.

In the meantime, there are now a few more chances to jump on board one of these iconic Virgin jets. Let us know if you do!

The scheduling information in this article was provided by Routes Online