Virgin Atlantic has been planning to retire its Airbus A340s for some time now. The original plan was to phase the aircraft type out of its fleet by the end of 2019. However, their 787 Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine issues postponed things a little bit. Now, with the coronavirus outbreak driving down global demand for air travel, it appears that the airline is storing these aircraft. Could this also mean an early retirement?
According to Airfleets, the airline has just three A340s left in its fleet. With a total of 29 A340s passing through Virgin over the years, the bulk have been retired and subsequently sold or scrapped. Some have gone to leasing company Hi Fly while others have gone to Iran’s Mahan Air. One actually now flies with Nigeria’s Azman Air.
Without any response from Virgin Atlantic to our inquiries, here is what we’ve gathered from publicly available data on the final three A340s – registrations G-VFIT, G-VNAP, and G-VWIN.
G-VFIT: “Dancing Queen”
This aircraft has been with Virgin Atlantic since 2006 and is listed as a lease from AerCap. The most recent movement for ‘Dancing Queen’ has been a repositioning flight from London Heathrow to London Gatwick. This is after completing a long-haul flight from Lagos, Nigeria.
While Virgin Atlantic does still offer services out of London Gatwick, there seem to be no further flights scheduled for the aircraft.
G-VNAP: “Sleeping Beauty Rejuvenated”
The aircraft’s name is very appropriate in this case. According to FlightRadar24.com, the aircraft hasn’t had any movements in at least the last seven days. Furthermore, there also appears to be no further flights scheduled for this aircraft.
According to Airfleets, G-VNAP joined the Virgin Atlantic fleet in March 2005. Next week, on 17 March it will celebrate a total of 15 years with the airline.
G-VWIN: “Lady Luck”
After completing a flight from Bridgetown Airport in Barbados to London Gatwick on 7 March, Lady Luck has been sitting quietly. This makes it a total of three days now without any scheduled service. Furthermore, like its other two counterparts, the aircraft has no scheduled upcoming flights.
G-VWIN is also a lease from AerCap, having joined the Virgin Atlantic fleet at the end of May of 2006.
There’s a little bit of mystery with what is actually going on with these aircraft. With two of them being leased from AerCap, we’ve contacted the leasing company to see if they would be willing to tell us what the aircraft status is, or what their future plans will be. At the time of publishing, we have yet to hear back from them.
We aren’t at all surprised that these quad-jets are now spending more time on the ground than they are in the sky. The coronavirus outbreak has drastically driven down demand and the A340s are large and more difficult to fill. Furthermore, their relatively inefficient cost of operation would likely be difficult to maintain in these trying times.
What do you think is happening with these A340s? Are they just being stored temporarily and will return to service for a few final months, or has the coronavirus outbreak expedited their retirement? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!