Virgin Atlantic’s First Airbus A350 Lands In London For First Time

Virgin Atlantic’s shiny new Airbus A350 arrived in London for the first time last night, touching down at Gatwick Airport following a short flight from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France.

Virgin A350
Virgin Atlantic A350 arriving in London. Photo: SpeedbirdUK via Flickr

Flight number VS835P had to battle strong gusty winds on its approach to Gatwick, but is now safely on the ground at its temporary home. Prior to the delivery of G-VLUX which Virgin has named “Red Velvet”, the airline was doing everything they could to publicize their new flagship aircraft.

Why Gatwick and why at night?

Having the plane delivered at night angered quite a few plane spotters and photographers with Aviation Toulouse freelance photographer @Frenchpainter calling it the “worst idea of the year.”

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Some people did not like that the A350 arrived at night. Photo: SpeedbirdUK via Flickr

Others asked why did they fly the A350 to Gatwick rather than to Heathrow? Given that it will be operating on the London Heathrow to New York John F. Kennedy route starting next month, it’s a fair question.

Our take on this is that Gatwick is much closer to Virgin’s head office. As such, official visits, media events and any other celebrations Virgin may have planned will be much easier managed at LGW than they would have been at Heathrow.

Added to this, eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that there’s something missing from G-VLUX – the Virgin icon! Previously the Varga Girl, G-VLUX will sport the first of Virgin’s reimagined icons, said to be more representative of the diversity of modern Britain. The carrier previously told Simple FLying that this icon will be applied by themselves in London, so having the aircraft just six miles from head office will ensure this is straightforward to do.

Virgin will not operate short-haul flights for crew familiarization

When British Airways took delivery of their first A350 from Airbus just over a week ago, they immediately put it on the LHR-MAD route for crew familiarization.

Virgin Atlantic A350
Virgin Atlantic A350 pilots trained with Finnair. Photo: James Oates – SpeedbirdUK

During the inaugural flight to which press was invited to see the new British Airways A350, BA Chief Executive Álex Cruz was asked why they had chosen Madrid.

His answer was straightforward and made complete sense when he said British Airways sister airline Iberia was already flying the A350 and that Iberia staff could train their British Airways counterparts.

Virgin Atlantic decided to go another way, teaming up flight crew with their equivalents over at Finnair.

Finnair was the first European airline to fly the A350

Finnair was chosen as they were the first airline in Europe to operate the A350 and have a wealth of experience.

Finnair A350
Finnair A350 winter conditions in Helsinki. Photo: Wikimedia

When talking about the Virgin Atlantic A350 training in a blog post, Finnair A350 fleet chief Marko Valtonen said,

“With over three years of commercial A350 operations, we have extensive experience on this aircraft, and we are happy to share our learning’s with colleagues at Virgin Atlantic.”

Senior Manager of Fleet Operations, as well as a Captain for Virgin Atlantic Rob Lawton, described the training saying,

“It’s been a fantastic start to the A350 training with Finnair. Finnair has been operating A350 aircraft for the last 3 years, and have shared their operational experiences with us over the last week. The weather conditions in Finland have been challenging with temperatures close to -15 degrees, contaminated runways and de-icing. This has given us valuable insight into operating this wonderful aircraft in extreme conditions.”

The first passenger flight aboard “Red Velvet” will be on September 10th, 2019 and will kick off Virgin Atlantic’s plan of putting more A350’s on the prestigious LHR-JFK route.