Virgin Atlantic has finally retired the last of its Airbus A340 aircraft. The final three quadjets flew to storage on March 24th, marking the end of almost two decades of history. The last to touch down was Lady Luck, an A340-600, which joins its two sisters in storage in the south of England.
The last three A340s
Virgin has been mulling the retirement of its fleet of A340s for some time. Originally slated to exit the airline by the end of last year, the last few A340-600s have clung on to their place in the fleet due to a myriad of issues, including with supply of replacement Trent 1000 engines for its Dreamliners.
While many of the airline’s 29 A340s had already exited the fleet in years before, three A340-600s remained in service. G-VWIN ‘Lady Luck’, G-VFIT ‘Dancing Queen’ and G-VNAP ‘Sleeping Beauty Rejuvenated’ have continued to provide service to the airline, that is until last Tuesday.
On the 24th March, all three remaining A340s took a ferry flight down to Bournemouth Airport on the South Coast of the UK. The last one to touch down was Lady Luck, hitting the runway at 15:04 that day. This was to be the last flight of the A340 for Virgin and the end of an era for the airline.
According to Virgin’s blog, these final three A340s had, between them, spent a combined total of almost 180,000 hours in the sky flying for the airline across more than 21,000 flights. The retirement of these final three A340s marks the end of almost two decades of history for the airline and the iconic Airbus quadjet.
Virgin’s A340 timeline
For some years, Virgin Atlantic operated two types of the four-engined aircraft – the A340-600 and the A340-300. The first to arrive were the -300s, with G-VBUS the very first to join the fleet in November 1993. Also known as ‘Lady in Red’ this A340 stayed with Virgin for over a decade, before moving on to the short-lived Virgin Nigeria in 2005.
The first of the -600s joined Virgin’s stable in July 2002, and Virgin was the launch customer for this variant. G-VSHY, or Madame Butterfly, served with Virgin for 11 years, before hopping down to Portugal to join the fleet of Hi Fly wet lease aircraft. This 17-year-old A340 has not been scrapped yet, and is currently under the ownership of Iran’s Mahan Airlines, registered EP-MMG, although it is listed as ‘stored’.
The most recently delivered A340 was G-VBUG, a -600 delivered in February 2007. Named ‘Lady Bird’ by the airline, this newest A340 was withdrawn from use on the 20th February last year, and is noted by Planespotters to have been broken up by Unical Aviation at San Bernardino (SBD) just last month.
The very last three A340s flying for Virgin, G-VWIN, G-VNAP and G-VFIT had all been with the airline for around 15 years. All three are now stored at Bournemouth (BOH) with ownership transferring to the European Aviation Group, a maintenance and repair specialist based at the airport.
What becomes of them next will depend on market demand. European Aviation Group offers repainting and interior modifications, which could mean these final A340s undergo a re-livery and refit to begin service elsewhere.
However, the company also breaks aircraft up and supplies parts through its outlet in Ledbury, UK and Indianapolis in the US, so it is also possible they will be turned into spares for other, still operational, A340s.
It’s the end of a long history for Virgin and the A340, and a sad day for avgeeks everywhere. Will you miss Virgin’s iconic quadjet? Let us know in the comments.