MIAMI — The first Airbus A350-1000 for Virgin Atlantic has seen the sunlight at the Airbus final assembly line in Toulouse, France. The engine-less aircraft, carrying the manufacturing serial number MSN274, will bear the registration G-VLUX when delivered to the British carrier.
The aircraft’s winglets are already carrying the airline’s branding. Also, the plane will be powered by two British-made Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.
Virgin Atlantic will become the first European carrier to operate the -1000 variant of the A350 XWB family.
The airline is likely to equip the A350-1000 with two cabin configurations. The first, with 360 seats including Upper Class, Premium Economy, and Economy cabins.
The second, an all-leisure, high-density configuration with up to 410 seats.
The A350-1000s are coming in to replace Virgin Atlantic’s older Boeing 747-400s and Airbus A340-600s, essentially all four-engined aircraft in the fleet.
Looking Back At The Order
Virgin Atlantic secured an order for 12 Airbus A350-1000s during the Farnborough Air Show 2016, becoming the 11th customer for Airbus’ largest A350 XWB variant.
The order, valued at $4.4 billion at list prices (and anywhere from $2.3-$2.6 billion applying standard discounts), includes eight firm orders for the type and four new aircraft on long-term leases from Air Lease Corporation (ALC) with a lease option for a fifth aircraft.
The firm orders will be delivered beginning in 2019 while deliveries of leased aircraft will commence one year later in 2020.
During the announcement, Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Keeger said that the A350-1000 “plays a pivotal role in our [Virgin Atlantic’s] fleet program, helping to create one of the youngest, cleanest, greenest fleets in the sky.”
Once Virgin Atlantic takes delivery of the first A350-1000 in early 2019, the carrier will have settled on a three- (and in the long run two-) aircraft fleet of jets.
Depending on how it positions the A350-1000 sub-fleets, it would have coverage from ~265 seats (Boeing 787-9 and A330-300) to ~300 seats to ~370 seats (A350-1000) while only operating two variants assuming the 787-9 replaces the A330-300s in the long run.
Just recently, the airline’s founder, Richard Branson, hinted that his ultimate goal is to fly non-stop between the UK and Australia, revealing that a flight from London to Perth might be happening sooner rather than later with the carrier’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.
Should Airbus come up with an ultra-long-range variant of the A350-1000, a nonstop flight between London and Sydney would, potentially, become an attainable venture.
In the meantime, Airbus will continue with the aircraft’s first flight and testing phase, hoping to deliver the aircraft on-time in early 2019.