In June of 2019, UK airline Virgin Atlantic announced that it would be modernizing its fleet with the acquisition of 14 A330-900s. In the original announcement, these were slated to replace its A330ceos from 2021. However, the events of 2020 have disrupted these plans, with the global health crisis continuing to persist. So when will Virgin Atlantic actually get its first Airbus A330neo?
The back end of 2022
While the original intention was to have the jets begin arriving in 2021, the plan has certainly shifted. AIB Family Flights, usually up to date with Airbus aircraft being produced, hasn’t spotted any A330neos in production for Virgin Atlantic just yet – noting that its last A330 delivery took place in 2012 with an A330-300 registered G-VUFO.
Indeed, with the global health crisis, the airline had decided to push back its A330neo deliveries. This is part of the carrier’s recapitalization plan, as we reported last November. During an interview at the time, CEO Shai Weiss stated that the A330-900 would join the Virgin Atlantic fleet by 2022, more precisely stating,
“The A339 should start appearing in the back end of 2022.”
Therefore, we are left to wait well over a year – if not longer – to see these new jets. And, as we’ve seen in the past 14 months, plans like this are subject to change and will depend greatly on the travel industry recovering enough over the next year.
Demand continues to be weak
Driven by new and more highly contagious COVID-19 variants, the UK has continued to uphold international travel restrictions. While vaccine roll-out is well underway, vigilance is required to answer that enough of the public are inoculated before resuming travel.
As the UK’s red-list continues to be updated, the worsening situation in India is a key concern- as well as a warning to the world about the dangers of resuming too early.
As a result of these ongoing restrictions, the majority of Virgin Atlantic’s A330 fleet is grounded – with Planespotters.net data showing nine of the carrier’s 13 jets parked. Most of these parked jets have been outside of regular operations for months, having barely flown at all since April 2020.
Updating to a more efficient fleet of aircraft
While we have a vague idea of when the A330neos will arrive, we have a clear picture of where the Virgin Atlantic fleet is headed. The airline’s CEO had stated that, once these aircraft begin to arrive, Virgin will be the youngest and most sustainable fleet operating across the Atlantic.
The airline has shed its large and relatively inefficient quad jets – the Boeing 747 and Airbus A340. Indeed, fleet modernization is already well underway, with the airline now operating 17 Boeing 787-9s and seven Airbus A350-1000s.
“This latest order for A330neos is a further commitment by Virgin Atlantic to continue modernizing its fleet with aircraft offering the highest standards of fuel efficiency and noise reduction alongside the best in class cabin comfort,” the 2019 statement from Airbus notes.
While Simple Flying reached out to Virgin Atlantic, inquiring on a more precise or updated timeline for these new jets, no response was received at the time of publication.
When do you think the A330neo will join the Virgin Atlantic fleet? Are you excited about the new addition? Let us know in the comments.