On June 17th, 2019, Virgin Atlantic announced the selection of the A330-900 to replace its A330ceos from 2021. The deal was signed at the Paris Air Show by Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic CEO, and Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO. It’s been over a year, and a lot has happened to the airline industry since then. Here’s what we know so far about Virgin Atlantic’s Airbus A330neo fleet.
Order for 14 to directly replace A330ceos
Airbus’ June 2019 announcement of its new deal with Virgin Atlantic notes that the UK operator will be taking 14 Airbus A330-900s. At the time of the report, this was to be a one-for-one replacement of its 14 Airbus A330ceos (current engine option). Of this new order, eight will be purchased by the carrier while six will be on lease from Air Lease Corporation (ALC).
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The airline’s current A330 fleet is smaller than 14, as it is comprised of four shorter A330-200s and six of the larger -300s. With 10 active jets, data from Airfleets.net shows that another four -300s are in the ‘stored/scrapped’ category, which could simply indicate long-term storage. At the moment, Virgin Atlantic’s website states that it only operates 10 of the A330.
A similar layout?
This section on cabin layout and configuration will be a little bit of speculation as no news has come from the airline.
While Virgin Atlantic currently has a mix of -200s and -300s, these aircraft will be replaced by a single variant, the -900. This is despite the fact that Airbus also offers the lower-capacity and longer-range -800. The -800 has significantly lagged in sales when compared to the -900, with only a handful of small airlines selecting the former.
The A330-900 is a similar size to the A330-300. For Virgin Atlantic, this means that its new jets could offer a similar cabin configuration to the existing -300. This would mean a three-class layout with 31 seats in Upper Class, 48 in Premium, and 185 for its Economy Classic and Economy Delight.
Of course, the airline could offer more than one cabin configuration based on the routes it will operate.
Entry into service likely to be deferred
Tough times have fallen on the entire industry, and Virgin Atlantic has not been immune to the recent downturn in air travel. The airline will be undergoing some restructuring as it works to become financially leaner. This includes filing for Chapter 15 bankruptcy in the United States.
The fight to stay afloat and reduce expenditures will see the airline defer the delivery of new aircraft. According to Air Lease Corporation (ALC), Virgin Atlantic will be delaying the delivery of some aircraft from Airbus. However, there was no indication as to whether this would be the A330neo or the A350. The airline has lease agreements with ALC for both types.
Speaking at the ALC earnings call presentation, CEO and president John Plueger explained that deliveries would proceed as planned, but also noted that some requests for deferrals had filtered through. Being pressed on the point, executive chairman of the board, Steve Udvar-Hazy clarified that some of the deliveries had been delayed, saying,
“…some of our deliveries have been rescheduled. But most importantly, their direct buys were rescheduled to later time frames, which means the airline has to pay less in fee delivery deposits to Airbus, and therefore, they can protect their cash liquidity position.”
Are you looking forward to Virgin Atlantic’s A330neos joining the fleet? Or should the airline have selected a different aircraft to replace its older A330s? Let us know in the comments.