Virgin Atlantic Could Purchase A330neos – Why Would This Be Good?

Virgin Atlantic could be looking to purchase A330neos for their fleet. Reports suggest the UK airline is looking at between six and 10 of the Airbus aircraft to add to their current lineup and enable retirement of some of their older planes.

Virgin A330-200
Virgin already operate some A330s, of the -200 and -300 variants. Photo: Virgin

Reporting from Reuters suggests that Airbus are close to securing a deal with Virgin Atlantic for a number of A330neos. Their sources say that the A330neo is under consideration alongside the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

According to the report, Virgin Atlantic could be on the verge of ordering six to ten new aircraft as part of their fleet renewal plans. While these are no more than rumors just now, Reuters has a habit of getting good inside information ahead of the crowd, so we fully expect an announcement soon.


Why would Virgin Atlantic consider A330neos?

Virgin Atlantic currently operate a somewhat mixed fleet. According to Wikipedia, they have four Airbus A330-200s, eight A330-300s, five A340-600s, eight Boeing 747-400s and 17 Boeing 787-9s.

Virgin Atlantic 747
Virgin could be looking at A330neos to enable retirement of their 747s. Photo: Joao Carlos Medau via Flickr

Within their fleet, their A340-600s and Boeing 747s are coming up to requiring renewal. While the airline does have 12 A350-1000s on order (with that amazing new upper class product on board), these would not fully replace the seating capacity lost by retiring their A340s and 747s. As an airline which is clearly looking to expand, cutting capacity is not something that we’d imagine is on their radar.

An additional order of between six and ten A330neos would certainly replace this lost capacity, and potentially add some too. It could even open the door to retirement of some of their older A330s, which at around 10 years old are by no means ‘past it’, but not the most modern of aircraft either.

Airbus A330neo
The A330neo offers interesting options for Virgin. Photo: Wikimedia

The A330neo is an interesting aircraft, and Airbus have already pegged it as a firm contender to Boeing’s forthcoming NMA plane, the ‘797’. With around 250 seats and excellent range capabilities, it’s the ideal choice for longer, thinner routes, giving Virgin the ability to expand into point to point services as opposed to their current mainly hub and spoke model.

This is something we’ve seen clearly with Emirates, who have ordered 40 Airbus A330neos as part of their fleet shakeup to give them more point to point potential. Virgin are in the midst of a massive investment project at Manchester Airport in the UK, which is very much a point to point destination, so an order of A330neos could be exciting to see.

The A330 vs the Dreamliner

It seems that the British airline is weighing up their operations between the A330neo and the 787 Dreamliner. Their current fleet includes 17 787-9s as well as 12 A330’s split between the -200 and -300 variant. As such, neither would truly be a ‘new’ aircraft to the fleet, and they’d already have a lot in place in the way of pilot training and maintenance support.

With the Dreamliner already in operation, some might say ‘why not just get more of the same’. After all, its capacity, range and passenger comforts are very similar, and they’re already fully equipped to deal with them.

Virgin Dreamliner
Virgin already operate 17 Dreamliners. Photo: Virgin

However, several of Virgin’s Dreamliners have been grounded for weeks following engine issues with the Rolls Royce Trent 1000s. The airline is currently leasing some of Air Berlin’s former A330-200s to replace this lost capacity. Perhaps this experience has made them fall out of love with the Boeing plane?

At the end of the day, the decision will come down to the crucial factor of finance. While the 787-9s list price is $292.5m, the A330-800neo comes in at just $259.9m. While we understand airlines rarely pay list price for any aircraft, starting out $32m cheaper is a good place to be. However, the -800 variant hasn’t proven to be particularly popular, and if Virgin are looking at the -900, the list price is on a par with the Dreamliner at $296.4m.

It’s going to depend what discounts are offered. Virgin are very closely allied with Delta, who are an Airbus only airline. They’ve also ordered the A330neo and may have some sway with Airbus to press for even better discounts for Virgin.

What do you think? Will the A330neo be a good investment for Virgin, or should they stick with the Dreamliner?


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Because it’s not BOEING, and your benchmark are made to outline BOIENG


Airbus probably offered a bigger discount on the A330 than Boeing was willing to offer. At the end of the day, list prices mean absolutely nothing. I wish they would stop being referred to in articles. ( I will give credit that it was at spelled out clearly on this article that airlines don’t pay list.) Each order is a separate contract. Boeing has been doing it too. If it wasn’t for pricing they wouldn’t have sold a new 737 in a very long time to anyone besides Southwest, and even they would be weighing their options. Boeing has even… Read more »


Delta is NOT an “Airbus only airline”.
They fly Boeing, Embraer and Bombardier aircraft.


Agree. It should be “Airbus focused airline”
once the MD, Embraer and Boeing narrowbody retires from the Delta fleet, the only non-airbus plane in delta’s fleet would be the B777.


Branson, I’am sure knows the Pros and Cons of both Aircrafts, and will be making the right decision based on Pricing, Reliability, and Flight Economics. I flew in both, and have a liking for the A330 for it’s confortable seating Pitch.

Ng Fook Meng

Couple of opportunities lies in the options available: 1. Fleet rationalization – the current fleet is an operstional challenge. In view of VA having placed an order for 12 A350s, it would be strategic to rationalise its fleet to just 2 types ie: the B787s and A350s. This fleet will be efficient and competitive for the next decade. 2. The above would substantially simplify the operations – flight crew training and deployment, engineering – expertise, tooling and spares, ground, catering and cargo support. 3. Maintaining the 2 competing types also: – reduces the business risk of any one type being… Read more »

Parker West

The 330neo is still a 1992 aircraft with new engines that can’t come close to the fuel economy shown with the composite 787. If the AirBus discount is substantial; and Virgin thinks fuel costs will take a dive and remain low for a very long time, maybe it’s a go. I think however Virgin is playing the 330 game to chisel a greater discount from Boeing. The quicker Virgin Australia can sell off or return their 340’s the better. Aircraft-introduced-seats-range-fuel burn mpg- PER SEAT MILE FUEL USE *Airbus A330-300 1992 262 3,000 nmi (5,600 km) 6.25 kg/km (22.2 lb/mi) 2.98 L/100 km (79 mpg‑US)[57] *Airbus A330neo-900 2016… Read more »


Virgin will buy the A330neo. Delta owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic and has 35 orders of the A330neo and no 787 orders.