With industry recovery years away and tough new lockdown measures in place across the UK, British carrier Virgin Atlantic hasn’t had much of a need for its full fleet of aircraft. Now that the carrier has freed itself from the burden of its older and inefficient quad jets, what is the airline flying these days?
A two-type fleet
As it stands in January 2021, Virgin’s active fleet simply consists of two types of aircraft: The Boeing 787-9 and the Airbus A350-1000. There are three main reasons for the Emirates-like simplicity of Virgin Atlantic’s fleet composition:
- The carrier is not a domestic or regional airline: Virgin Atlantic only operates long-haul services, going as far as the US West Coast, Hong Kong, and South Africa. Without destinations in the UK or even other parts of Europe, the airline has no need for shorter-range narrowbody jets.
- Older and more inefficient quad jets were retired earlier this year: 2020 was a year where we said goodbye to many quad jets. For Virgin, this meant retiring its fleet of seven Boeing 747-400s and three Airbus A340-600s.
- The efficiency of its new twinjets: This has moved Virgin to park its older-generation Airbus A330 fleet – of which the airline has 14.
A key benefit of this simplicity is that, as with other less-diverse fleets, maintenance resources can be streamlined and focused on fewer types of aircraft – something that is sure to save the airline money.
Let’s look further into the aircraft Virgin Atlantic has in the air right now.
The Boeing 787-9 has been part of the Virgin Atlantic fleet for just over six years now, with the first aircraft joining in October 2014. There are 17 of these Dreamliners in the Virgin fleet, with just one of these listed as parked.
As for the other 787s, they’re flying on the airline’s wide range of long-haul destinations – except for a few operated exclusively by the Airbus A350-1000. The airline operates the 787 out of Manchester as well – to destinations such as Islamabad (Pakistan) and Bridgetown (Barbados).
The airline’s extremely young fleet of seven A350-1000s has an average age of just 1.6 years old. This would definitely be lower if it weren’t for the airline’s lone four-year-old A350 – which it took delivery of in September 2020. It’s older age indicates it was likely a test-build for Airbus. The newest A350 is just six months old.
Compared to the 787, these seven jets fly to a much shorter list of destinations, including New York, Lagos, and Los Angeles. The latter two appear to be the only destinations that both types have been flying to recently.
Speaking of Virgin Atlantic’s Airbus A350s, Simple Flying’s own Jo Bailey and Tom Boon caught up with the airline’s Captain Chris Pohl recently to discuss his career and talk about the future for those interested in pursuing a career in aviation. The senior captain and training pilot had a great discussion with the team via the Simple Flying podcast– something worth checking out!
Have you flown with Virgin Atlantic recently? Please share your experience with us by leaving a comment.