What If Virgin Atlantic Kept Their Airbus A380 Order?

Way back in the yesteryear of 2001, Virgin Atlantic decided to put down a deposit on the latest and greatest aircraft to be released to the market… the A380.

Virgin Atlantic ordered six A380s back in 2001. Photo: Virgin Atlantic.

But they would go on to never receive and fly the aircraft leaving many to wonder what could have been.

What would have the Virgin A380 been like?

Onboard we would have seen something really special from the Virgin team, with the extra space on an A380 they would have put it to good use.

Virgin
A mockup of a Virgin Atlantic A380. Photo: Virgin Atlantic.

Following the footsteps of the middle eastern airlines like Qatar and Emirates, Virgin Atlantic would have most likely placed a business lounge onboard, a communal economy area and even a private suite and a shower.

The business class would have been upgraded with the new Virgin Upper Class design that is debuting later this year.

Virgin Atlantic A350
Virgin’s A350’s will have all new Upper Class seats. Photo: Virgin Atlantic

Where would it have flown?

We only need to look at Virgin Atlantic rival British Airways to see where the A380 would have flown.

London to New York would have been an obvious choice. With many flights a day, this route easily has the capacity to support a daily (or even twice daily) A380 flight.

Virgin
London Heathrow to New York. Photo: GC Maps

Another destination that would have utilized the A380 would have been the holidaymaker route of London to Orlando. In previous holiday seasons, Virgin Atlantic has been known to send up to eight Boeing 747s loaded with tourists towards the city known for its amusement parks and Disneyland. An A380 on this route would be instantly profitable and very lucrative for Virgin Atlantic.

Virgin
London to Orlando. Photo: GC Maps

Why did they cancel their A380 order?

In reality, Virgin Atlantic would go on to cancel their A380 order with Airbus.

At first, they simply deferred their 2006 delivery date. It may have had something to do with Delta becoming an investor in Virgin Atlantic (and their dislike of the A380 aircraft is well known), putting pressure on the executive to delay the order as long as possible.

“Following a thorough review of our fleet we have taken the decision not to pursue our order for six Airbus A380,” says the carrier.” – Virgin Atlantic to Flight Global

In 2016, Virgin Atlantic would go on to order six A350-1000s as their new flagship aircraft (soon to fly this year). The order for the Virgin A380s vanished from the Airbus A380 order sheet. It is possible that the A380 deposit was moved from one production line to the next.

Virgin Atlantic A350
Virgin Atlantic will take delivery of their first A350 this year. Photo: Virgin Atlantic

“We believe the A350-1000 will best serve our customers and network and will enable us to continue reducing the carbon emissions from our fleet, through our ongoing investment in quieter, more fuel-efficient aircraft,” – Virgin Atlantic continued in the same Flight Global article.

With the A380 now no longer in production (well still technically being built but will wrap up in the next few years), there may be no chance we see one of these aircraft flying in the Virgin livery (unless Virgin Australia, the only other Virgin airline in the world pulls a U-turn).

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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Andrew Heenan

Virgin had ambitions to be both a luxury airline for trendy folk, and a mass market airline. Over the many ups and downs and twists and turns of the market over the decades, it’s pretty clear now that Virgin has discarded any attempt to be a mass market airline, which would compete with their overpriced shareholding airlines. Instead, they will slowly disappear into a tiny niche, but be profitable. Then one day, they just won’t be there any more. Sad really. Branson was inspired by Freddie Laker, and could have been a larger, more secure version of Norwegian. But like… Read more »

Stephen Pressman

Virgin is sadly all but Delta in name, Branson reduced to a famous figurehead only too. Money talks and Virgin sold their souls. That sais I agree the 3 routes they could have run profitable were NY, LA And Orlando maybe Miami too. However, the A380 is a beast way before it’s time. I had the pleasure of 4 flights on an Emirates A380 LHR-DXB-BKK and BKK-DXB-LHR it was pure joy was on the lower deck Y class out to DXB and upper deck Y class to BKK and same coming back. So much space, so quiet and also comfortable.… Read more »